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September 11, 2009 - 1:00pm

OTB task force meeting minutes suggests state could meddle in Batavia Downs operations

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, OTB.

A spokesman for the task force reviewing Off Track Betting operations in New York wrote to The Batavian yesterday to say:

With reference to the item on the Genesee County Legislature's opposition to a purported takeover of regional Off Track Betting corporations, I wish to assure your readers that the New York State Task Force on the Future of OTB has proposed nothing of the kind.

Joseph Mahoney, public information officer for the New York State Task Force on the Future of OTB was responding to an article The Batavian posted about the Genesee County Legislature passing a resolution opposing any state takeover of OTB, specifically, Batavia Downs.

By this time, Assemblyman Steven Hawley had been very clear that there has been no discussion in Albany of any such takeover.

What I find curious was the wording of Mr. Mahoney's message to The Batavian. He said there has been no proposal. That leaves unsaid, could there be a proposal?

So I wrote back to Mr. Mahoney and asked that and other specific questions such as, "Is there anything on the table that could, possibly, maybe reduce the amount of local control, control of the current operators?"

Mr. Mahoney's response: Visit our web site

Well, among the first documents I open is the minutes from the group's first meeting, June 25, in which Chairman John Van Lindt is reported to say  that topping the list of possible outcomes of the Task Force's work is "consolidation to achieve cost savings by efficiency of operations."

To me that sounds like centralization of OTBs, which logically implies a state takeover, don't you think?

In the next meeting, Aug. 2, Van Lindt made a motion that requires OTB's to have early termination clauses in any new contracts. That sounds like a prelude to centralizing administration.

Placed on the agenda for the next meeting: "Various options for continuation of OTBs in the state, e.g., joint venture with tracks, consolidate, privatize with or without consolidation, maintain status quo."

OK, so consolidation isn't the only option, but it's on the table.

At that meeting, Aug. 25, during public comment, Charles Hayward, president the New York Racing Association, includes a suggestion to consolidate operations and overhead "(accounting, marketing, insurance etc.)."

So, Mr. Mahoney is right: There is no proposal, at least in a formal sense, to consolidate OTB operations, but the idea certainly seems to be on people's minds.

Mahoney in his initial e-mail:

The goal of the Task Force members is a clear one: They wish to increase the level of revenue produced by OTB corporations -- especially to local governments.

But Mahoney never directly answered this question, and I think it's an important one for the task force to address: "With a successful operation like Batavia Downs, why should the state intervene at all? Shouldn't we assume the current operators know what they're doing and don't need outside intervention?"

Making bigger government entities is no way to increase efficiency or improve profits for the communities that host these operations.

The allegation by critics of the task force is that this is an opening for a revenue grab by the state fueled by the failures of downstate racing and OTB operations. The task force's own meeting minutes are not terribly reassuring that there isn't some truth to that concern.

Bob Harker
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Howard, I have to kind of take you to task on this article. In various past posts, although not blatently, inference can be made that to some extent you support Obama. Inspite of his massive spending and a track record of moving our nation toward socialism. And now you are up in arms about a NY government agency taking over OTB? With the utmost level of respect, I submit to you that you need to reevaluate your priorties. Bob
Howard B. Owens
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I support Obama? Ummm ... Dan, Charlie, Bea, anybody, what do you think? Bob, care to point out specific passages of mine that supports that supposition?
Bea McManis
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Posted by Howard Owens on September 11, 2009 - 5:42pm I support Obama? Ummm ... Dan, Charlie, Bea, anybody, what do you think? /me innocently walked in here to see who was around and look what I find! lol Actually, I came in here to clear my mind and figure out what to make for dinner. So, what do I think? I'm thinking steak and a salad; pizza and a salad; or leftover baked beans with hot dogs and a salad. Still deciding. As far as Howard supporting Obama, gosh that would be wonderful but I don't see it happening anytime in the near future. Not that we won't keep trying to convert him. Howard will rail against government takeover of any entity..be it state or federal. Remember, he is the champion of small government..keep it at the local level. All that said, this site is still open to everyone regardless of their political leanings. Howard has come out in defense of many points of view, which leads me to believe that he is somewhat apolitical. Okay, the onle thing I KNOW I'm not going to make tonight is a phone call for take out. I'm definitely going to cook, just can't decide what!
Charlie Mallow
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Bob, you have a sharp eye. I have seen Howard speak to Socialists (Democrats) in the past. I know he keeps company with them as well. I believe that Howard is probably a member or has friends that are members of the Democratic Party. I believe him to be disloyal to the Republican Party and therefore a subversive. I just can’t prove it yet. You keep a look out for any other Un-American activates from Howard, I will be doing my part by watching Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann tonight.
Howard B. Owens
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Sssh, Charlie. I don't want people to know about my appearances on Olbermann. Trying to blow my cover? That was supposed to be our little secret.
Howard B. Owens
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Tonight I'll be talking about how Van Jones got railroaded.
Bea McManis
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It must be Friday night. Can't get too serious tonight. I think this is the release valve needed after an emotional day of remembrance. I finally had to turn off the TV. Even though I was puttering around the house, I could hear it. I don't know about anyone else, but listening to it as if it were real time, brought back a flood of memories. Van Jones, heh? That I would love to hear.
Daniel Jones
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Howard is an Obama fan? Howard? An Obama fan? HA!!!!!
Bob Harker
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I don't know what happened to my reply from an hour ago, and wish it was being shown. However, I won't be able to "spar" with you for a couple of days. I'm meeting the 9/12 bus at Suburban Plaza in Rochester in a few hours. God Bless. Bob
Howard B. Owens
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@Bob "I don't know what happened to my reply from an hour ago, and wish it was being shown." You left four comments yesterday. All four are still on the site.
Chris Charvella
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To be fair Howard, Mr. van Lindt also suggested privatizing the OTB's as a viable solution. There is nothing to suggest that there is a plan for State takeover; even local Republican Overlord Steve Hawley said that it's nonsense. I can't help but wonder why the Genesee County Legislature isn't spending more time on actual issues and less time on the ones they create out of whole cloth. No one in Genesee County, Republican or Democrat, would support this if it were a reality but the fact is, it's not. Writing resolutions about issues that don't exist is simply a waste of taxpayer time and money.
Howard B. Owens
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Chris, I did quote the full portion of the minutes, including privatization, and I wrote "OK, so consolidation isn't the only option, but it's on the table." All three minutes mentioned consolidation. And we are talking about Albany. It's not like backroom, dirty dealing isn't part of the normal mode of operations there. It seems to me there is a legitimate reason to be concerned.
Chris Charvella
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Riddle me this then, Howard: Why are the minutes from a meeting in June becoming fodder for political commentary in mid-September? The whole thing was innocuous enough three months ago but with an election less than eight weeks away the Legislature is spending it's time drafting resolutions in opposition to fictional state takeovers. Like I said in my previous post, if there was a real plan for a State takeover of local OTB operations I would oppose it with every fiber of my being, but there is no plan. The County Legislature is attempting to score cheap political points by manufacturing local wedge issues. They could be spending their time and your money more wisely.

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