View Full Version : New York City style casinos

April 6th, 2003, 11:45 AM
NY Post...



ALBANY - New York City would get its first-ever modern casinos as part of a top-secret plan to provide Mayor Bloomberg with more than $400 million a year in badly needed revenue, The Post has learned.

The plan, which has been outlined to the city by state budget negotiators, would create several new OTB teletheaters operated by the city's Off Track Betting Corp.

But instead of focusing on horse racing as OTB parlors normally do, the proposed teletheaters would be equipped with slot machine-like video terminals, which are also slated to be installed soon at state racetracks.

"This could be a substitute for the commuter tax, raising hundreds of millions of dollars a year for Mayor Bloomberg," said a senior legislative official familiar with the negotiations.

Bloomberg, facing a massive city budget deficit, has been desperately seeking additional revenues from the state, and he's repeatedly asked for the reinstatement of a commuter tax.

He has warned of massive cutbacks unless the state comes through with significant help and the city's unions agree to givebacks.

Under Bloomberg's plan, the commuter tax would generate $1 billion in additional revenue, but the old tax raised about $400 million a year before it was abolished three years ago.

Gov. Pataki and State Senate Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to a reinstatement of any type of commuter tax.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has repeatedly urged officials to develop "creative" ways to raise revenue for the city.

John McArdle, spokesman for the Republican-controlled Senate, refused to comment on the proposal.

"I don't want to comment on ongoing budget negotiations," he said.

The plan likely faces intense scrutiny in the Democrat-controlled State Assembly, where Speaker Sheldon Silver has repeatedly thwarted attempts to allow casinos and other types of new gambling measures in the city.

Silver has often cited the negatives of higher crime and adverse impacts on the poor for his opposition.

Assembly spokesman Charles "Skip" Carrier yesterday was unfamiliar with the gambling proposal, but said it's unlikely Democrats will drop their push to reinstate the old commuter tax.

April 7th, 2003, 11:04 AM
NYC should have all-out, Vegas-style casinos, damnit. Why does this city insist on losing out to NJ and CT? *Imagine a row of casinos, say on Rockaway. *I would sayy, maybe, not to have as many hotel rooms and restaurants, etc. so the rest of the city doesn't get hurt too badly, but other then that, NYC would easily compete with LV.

April 7th, 2003, 11:10 AM
A no-smoking casino would be a first.....

April 7th, 2003, 03:21 PM
Casino New York ran on the boat Max II out of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Protests and politicians eventually put it out of business.

April 7th, 2003, 04:50 PM
I'm sick of these protesters... what do we live in a monastery? *It'sa crazy - no noise, no bars, no dancing, no smoking (which I hate, but still), no tall buildings, no building in "footprints," no gambling, no strip clubs or sex in any way - I mean c'mon.

April 12th, 2003, 01:11 AM
If casinos are being proposed in New York, they should put them in Times Square.

April 18th, 2003, 09:02 AM
The OTB terminals may not go through, but it looks like New Yorkers will get their AC fix at Aqueduct...
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(Daily News)

Slots for Aqueduct:
4,500 electronic bandits are at the starting line


New York gamblers will be able to play the ponies and the slots at the same time under a long-awaited deal announced yesterday to install video slot machines at Aqueduct race track in Queens.

The New York Racing Association said it tapped casino giant MGM Mirage to run 4,500 of the electronic bandits at the Thoroughbred track.

"We're very excited, because we think MGM Mirage is a first-class operation," NYRA Chairman and CEO Barry Schwartz told the Daily News.

The machines - also called video lottery terminals - are similar to traditional slot machines except that winners are determined through a computerized lottery.

With each raking in $300 to $500 a day, the terminals could bring the cash-strapped state up to $1 billion a year.

The lure of the slots is expected to draw as many as 20,000 players a day to Aqueduct.

Currently, gamblers can play the video slots only at the state's Indian casinos.

Lawmakers authorized tracks to have the machines last year - with the state getting a 60% slice of the action - but the deals have been bogged down in more haggling over how casinos, the state and breeders will split the bounty.

It would take about seven months after an agreement is hammered out to put electronic slots at Aqueduct.

Lawmakers have also discussed allowing the terminals in New York City Off-Track Betting parlors, although that idea was killed by Gov. Pataki and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

Trump beaten out

MGM Mirage eclipsed casino mogul Donald Trump in a photo-finish for the contract, NYRA officials said.

They refused to disclose the terms of the agreement, although they said the association plans to spend $100 million to launch the new upscale gambling parlor off the track's second-floor grandstand and clubhouse.

"It'll be a first-class operation," Schwartz said.

Once new legislation is enacted, it should take about seven months for the Aqueduct video lottery terminals to open, NYRA said.

NYRA Vice President Bill Nader conceded the slots won't benefit New York City's coffers. But he argued the city will benefit from more people at the track.

April 18th, 2003, 09:09 AM
(Star Ledger)

MGM secures N.Y. deal for video lottery terminals

Friday, April 18, 2003

Six months after MGM Mirage announced it was halting casino plans in Atlantic City, the Las Vegas giant secured a deal to operate slot-like gambling machines at Aqueduct racetrack in New York, an operation that will compete with New Jersey casinos.

Aqueduct's owner, the New York Racing Association, announced yesterday it had signed a deal to allow MGM Mirage to operate 4,500 video lottery terminals, or VLTs -- machines that look like slots but are considered games of chance, not skill.

In doing so, MGM Mirage beat Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts as the operator of the largest racetrack casino in the country, and the only one in New York City.

Analysts have said growing competition threatens to chip away at Atlantic City's market. Aqueduct predicts it will lure 15,000 to 20,000 people a day with VLTs.

"Sure there's enough to go around," New York Racing Association Chairman Barry Schwartz said. "But I would hope (Aqueduct) would take business from them."

Terry Lanni, chairman of MGM Mirage, said he does not see Aqueduct as a direct threat to Atlantic City. MGM Mirage has invested nearly $550 million in the $1.1 billion Borgata, a casino that is expected to open in Atlantic City this summer.

"I really don't see an effect on Atlantic City," Lanni said of the VLTs at Aqueduct. "Right now, the greatest threat to New Jersey is any legislation action that might support the governor's proposals" to raise casino taxes or allow VLTs at the Jersey tracks.

Whether in New Jersey or New York, racetrack casinos -- or "racinos" -- are still months away. New York passed legislation in October 2001 allowing VLTs at eight tracks and six Native American casinos, including three in the Catskills. But casino mogul Donald Trump and others have sued to stop the spread of gambling, and the racing industry has been fighting with the state about its cut of the revenues.

Schwartz said he does not want to create a place where casino-style gambling overshadows horseracing. At other racinos, horseracing has become an afterthought.

"Our role is to make sure racing in New York is the best racing in America," Schwartz said. "This will be a first-class facility. I want the player that comes in and plays the VLTs to be able to walk a few steps and watch a race live."

April 18th, 2003, 10:37 AM
But we can't have "casionos."

April 26th, 2003, 08:11 AM
Looks like the city could be seeing more action...(Daily News)

Cash-strapped city may give slots a whirl


A mass infusion of slot machines in New York City may be a solution - albeit an undesirable one - to the city's behemoth budget problems, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

"It may be an answer for the city. We need money. And don't get me wrong. It may come down to one of these Hobson's choices, where you say: 'I don't like gambling, but compared to the alternative we don't have any choice,'" he said.

The state passed a law in 2001 allowing up to three Indian casinos in the Catskills, one in Buffalo, one in Niagara Falls and another in western New York - but none in the city.

Bloomberg said he's spoken with Gov. Pataki, state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) about expanding gambling as one way of raising revenue.

"It's not an idea that's dead," he said.

But Bloomberg also stressed that gambling has its drawbacks, noting that it often attracts the people who can least afford to lose money.

"One of the problems of using gambling as a ways to balance the budget is it has a cost," he said. "The way this stuff works is, you put in money and, yes, some people win, but on balance, whatever the state gets and whatever the operator gets ... that's everybody else's money," he said.

Island dealt out

Bloomberg said there is no possibility of placing casinos or any form of gambling on Governors Island, which the city recently acquired from the federal government.

While gambling on the historic island in New York Harbor has long been proposed, Bloomberg said the city's agreement with the feds precludes it.

A more likely long shot, he said, is an expansion of video lottery terminals, similar to traditional slot machines, except winners are determined through instantly computed lotteries.

This week, officials announced a long-awaited deal to install 4,500 video lottery terminals at Aqueduct.

And this month, Albany lawmakers floated the concept of installing video lottery terminals throughout the city - and Times Square was at the top of the list.

The proposal, some lawmakers estimated, could generate more than $300 million in tax revenue for the cash-starved city.

Kevin Quinn, a spokesman for the state Division of Budget, said, "This is something others have asked us to look at, and we will take a look at it."

The city faces a budget deficit estimated at $3.8 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Bloomberg is seeking $2.7 billion in aid from Albany to balance the budget.

While the mayor conceded yesterday that gambling is on the negotiation table, his aides stressed that the administration is not actively pursuing it. Instead, he is seeking a commuter tax that would generate $1.4 billion in revenue.

"The mayor does not have a lot of enthusiasm for [gambling]," Ed Skyler, Bloomberg's press secretary, said after the mayor's comments on his weekly WABC-AM radio show. "We don't have much interest."

April 26th, 2003, 08:41 AM
Two words:

Coney Island

TLOZ Link5
April 26th, 2003, 10:16 AM
One would hope that these proposed casinos will emulate Monaco as opposed to Vegas.

April 26th, 2003, 10:55 AM
I agree, but I'd bet they'd end up emulating Atlantic City.

April 26th, 2003, 02:02 PM
We should just let go of our puritanism and establish a "red light district," like our more pragmatic European cousins. *The rationale is blindingly obvious: *When you have a red light district you always know where to maintain a strong police presence. *Instead of having seedy strip clubs on far-flung outer-borough roadsides, you could concentrate and contain all that activity. *

I could be wrong...

April 26th, 2003, 02:04 PM
Imagine a row of casinos, say on Rockaway.

The Russian mafia would love that.

April 26th, 2003, 02:19 PM
Rockaway may be even better. The same advantages as Coney Island, plus proximity to JFK.

April 26th, 2003, 02:25 PM
The Russian mafia wouldn't love that. They'd devote their lives, hearts, and souls to it.

Putting them in Coney is a bad idea. It wouldn't be very good for the neighborhood or its image and the locals aren't exactly rich.

TLOZ Link5
April 26th, 2003, 03:49 PM
Quote: from JMGarcia on 10:55 am on April 26, 2003
I agree, but I'd bet they'd end up emulating Atlantic City.

Is there a difference between Atlantic City and Vegas, casino-wise?

April 26th, 2003, 06:02 PM
Scale, I think.

April 27th, 2003, 01:40 AM
God, I love this board.

I've been saying massive casinos - Vegas size (maybe not style) along Rockaway - money, jobs, tourism, economic activity in a run-down area. *If they can have slots in TS, then they can have full on casinos.

CI is not bad, but I still want a massive, Great Adventure-type amusement park. *Bring Coney back to it's roots. *It would be great to ride the Cyclone and some new steel coaster in one day. *

I also totally agree with the red light district - control the area, control the industry (mandatory testing, safe sex, etc), make money for the owners, the landlords, the city, and the girls (they would make more if it waas legal).

We are not Quakers, this is NYC, the former Sin Sity - screw Vegas. *It's time to take our fun and money back from Nevada and Jersey!

May 4th, 2003, 11:29 AM
(Daily News)

Big A to bet on slots
Aqueduct looks to rake in extra 400M


Some things haven't changed at Aqueduct Race Track, but other things definitely have.

What hasn't changed is that bettors still bask in the sun below the grandstand, gazing intently at the thoroughbreds as they thunder around the track during each 2-minute race, then waiting nearly a half-hour for the next race to go off.

What has changed is that these days, only a few thousand people come out each day to the Big A - a far cry from decades ago, when nearly 50,000 people a day would flock to the venerable track in Ozone Park to watch the ponies run.

"The industry is in a terrible financial position," said Bill Nader, senior vice president of the New York Racing Association, which operates the Big A. "We must introduce an element that will reinvigorate racing at the track."

Aqueduct officials are betting that the new element will be video slot machines.

State legislators recently authorized NYRA to install 4,500 of the new machines at Aqueduct, a move that could, they say, bring in as much as $400 million.

The association has partnered with MGM Mirage, the Las Vegas-based casino giant, which won a contract over Donald Trump to manage the electronic slot machines at New York State tracks.

"We do share NYRA's vision for creating a race casino that is very likely to be one of the largest and most noticeable in the country," said MGM Mirage spokeswoman Yvette Monet.

Aqueduct will install the machines in more than 200,000 square feet of space in its second-floor grandstand and clubhouse. The area will feature a food court, retail shopping, cocktail lounges, dining rooms and a new simulcast viewing area.

"If I'm here and the slots are here, I'd go play. Especially in between races," said Michael Posner, 43, of Westchester. "I think a lot of people will come, and maybe they'll get into the races too."

Tom Rail, 40, of Massapequa, L.I., said his wife, Lynne, will want to come with him to the track now that slots will be there.

"It will be something for her to do while I'm doing this," said Rail, a city worker.

The road is not entirely a smooth one; NYRA isn't satisfied with how legislators have allotted the profits the slot machines are expected to make among the state, the track, the state Lottery and the horse owners and breeders.

The funding formula gives 60% to the state, 12.5% each to the track and the horsemen, and 15% to the Lottery - which will supply the machines.

Nader said the distribution of profits is more favorable for racing associations in other states such as West Virginia, where tracks get to keep 47% of the pot, and Delaware, where tracks keep 49%.

However, he said, "We recognize that we are not going to get the kind of revenue split that's available to Delaware and West Virginia."

It will cost Aqueduct more than $100 million to build the slots parlor over seven months. Nader expects 15,000 patrons daily - and 2.5 million a year - to play the video slots. Each machine could rake in $300 to $500 a day, and together they could generate $400 million a year.

"Foxwoods and Atlantic City are full-blown casinos. We're going to be more about convenience and access," Nader said. "We'll be the only video lottery machine operation in New York City borders."

Lightning Homer
May 4th, 2003, 02:00 PM
Er... all right for non-smoking casinos. Could we also build non-gambling ones ? ;)

May 13th, 2003, 08:11 AM
May 13, 2003

The Inverse of A.T.M. Is V.L.T.


IF you are not familiar with the initials V.L.T., this may be as good a time as any to start getting used to them. They will be heard more and more as state and city budget makers look for ways to climb out of their fiscal holes.

No, V.L.T. is not shorthand for a new sandwich, with veal instead of bacon accompanying the lettuce and tomato. Would that it were that benign. The initials stand for video lottery terminals, a fancy information age way to describe slot machines, souped-up and microchipped. These machines are about to appear by the many thousands across New York State.

The first to get them will be racetracks, which are increasingly being reconfigured as casinos. Indeed, a new word has been coined for them: racinos. You may have to start getting used to that one, too.

In New York City, 4,500 V.L.T.'s are to be installed at the doleful Aqueduct track, which will stay open 17 hours a day, thereby maximizing the amount of time that bettors have to throw away their money on the slots.

"You know where Aqueduct is," said State Senator Frank Padavan, a Republican from Queens who has long condemned the readiness, even eagerness, of most elected officials to turn the state into a casino manager and numbers runner.

Mr. Padavan was referring to a corner of southern Queens not noted for Park Avenue prosperity. "Nearly all the people who will be going to this `racino' will be from the immediate area," he said. "Like any product, the more available it is, the more people will buy it."

And the more people buy it, he added, the more likely it is that some will become hooked on gambling. Several studies in recent years, including one by the New York Council on Problem Gambling, strongly suggest that the spread of state lotteries and casinos has led to significant increases in the incidence of compulsive gambling.

Those who fall prey tend to come from the ranks of those who can least afford it. Very few are like William J. Bennett, the career moralist who is reported to have lost $8 million at casinos, money that he made from his books and lectures on America's crying need for virtue.

THE expansion of state-sponsored gambling is relentless.

Gov. George E. Pataki, who shows an abiding affection for this form of revenue, has struck deals to create new Indian-run casinos. An underlying premise is that economic development for American Indians means turning them into croupiers.

The New York Lottery's Web site says that it ended the last fiscal year, on March 31, with healthy sales of $5.4 billion and net revenue of $1.8 billion. The lottery, a polite word for what in private hands is called a numbers racket, always says that its money goes to support education. Those dollars, however, get mixed in with other state revenue. It is as valid, just not as clever a marketing strategy, to say that lottery revenue supports homeless shelters and welfare programs.

"Government is in the business of adding new kinds of gambling — they're addicted to the revenue," said Arnie Wexler, a New Jersey-based counselor on compulsive gambling and what he calls "responsible gaming programs." For four decades, Mr. Wexler has wrestled with his own gambling demons, so he knows an addict when he sees one.

"They pencil in how much they expect to come from the lottery," he said of officials, and not just those in New York State. "If they fall short, they start juicing up the game, making the jackpot higher. You get people gambling who normally wouldn't be doing that. So they bring in more money this way. But they also create more problem gamblers."

With V.L.T.'s, the temptation to spread them around seems destined to remain strong, given that lawmakers expect a state profit of $150 million in the coming year, rising the following year to $360 million.

There was talk in Albany of also installing slot machines in OTB parlors in the city, but that idea faded. For the moment.

Even Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who wrinkles his nose in distaste at government's reliance on gambling money, is not prepared to just say no. "We need money," the mayor said recently. "And don't get me wrong. It may come down to one of these Hobson's choices, where you say, `I don't like gambling, but compared to the alternative, we don't have any choice.' "

Mr. Padavan, for one, has no doubt that slots at OTB is an idea that will be revived sooner or later. You can almost say that he's betting on it.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

January 27th, 2004, 07:25 PM
Sorry if this was posted already, but I just saw it:


January 21, 2004 -- Gov. Pataki yesterday unveiled a $100 billion state budget that proposes five casino-style gambling parlors in New York City.

The gambling plan - which Pataki said would raise $2 billion annually when fully operational - would restrict the city's slot-like, video-lottery casinos to south of 59th Street in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, with the exact locations to be determined.

In all, the proposal calls for eight such parlors statewide.

Pataki said the funds raised from the gambling would be used to boost education spending.

But Queens Sen. Frank Padavan, like Pataki a Republican, blasted the plan as "absurd and cruel."

"The governor won't say he's proposing new taxes, but everyone knows gambling is a regressive form of taxation," Padavan charged.

Video lottery terminals - which are similar to regular slot machines - were authorized two years ago by the Legislature at several state racetracks, including Aqueduct, but none has yet begun operation.

Assembly Democrats, who last year rejected efforts by Pataki to place VLT casinos in some of the city's Off-Track Betting Corp. teletheaters, quickly attacked the governor's latest plan as unacceptable for funding education.

But they didn't rule the parlors out entirely.

"You don't fund education based on how many bets are made at an OTB parlor," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D- Manhattan), who repeatedly refused to say if he would block the casinos if other ways to fund education were found.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer), Pataki's most important legislative ally, also said he found the governor's casino proposal - as well as several of his tax and fee hikes also contained in the budget - "very, very troublesome."

Mayor Bloomberg also expressed reservations about the casinos as an education-funding source, saying, "It is highly unpredictable."

But while Bloomberg said he's "never been a big fan of gambling" because "it tends to be very regressive," he didn't rule out backing Pataki's proposal.

Pataki, seeking to cope with a projected $5.1 billion deficit and a Legislature that overrode his vetoes of spending hikes last year, said his $99.8 billion spending plan "strikes a balance between the realities we must face today and our optimism for tomorrow."

The governor said overall state spending would rise by a mere 1.5 percent, or $1.5 billion.

But some budget watchdog organizations said spending was actually up more than $4 billion, or 4 percent.

Pataki said his plan, for the fiscal year beginning April 1, would provide nearly $400 million to Mayor Bloomberg for additional New York City aid.

It also provides the city with a special $100 million education grant, which the city would have to match.

Silver later charged that Pataki's proposal actually cut overall city aid, calling the governor's efforts to change a long-term lending plan that reduces city debt payments "a direct $1 billion torpedo at the city budget."


January 28th, 2004, 10:43 AM
If casinos are being proposed in New York, they should put them in Times Square.

I like the idea of them in Coney island. With the boardwalk it'd be a like a local Atlantic City

January 28th, 2004, 11:10 PM
Coney, nice, but Rockaways are better. Put bars, clubs, amusements, etc. in Coney to compete with Great Adventure, even Disney. Rockaways should be a better AC.

January 29th, 2004, 09:09 AM
Rockaways should be a better AC.

I'd rather see Rockaways become more similar to Las Vegas than Atlantic City.

Other than the casinos, AC is pretty desolate. AC is a place where people just gamble, then leave. Las Vegas offers visitors more in terms of restaurants, nightlife, entertainment, and actually helps the surrounding community as a whole.

January 29th, 2004, 10:50 AM
True, but I think it should centrer around the casinos only. Be even less than AC in that respect. NYC already has all the restaurants, shows, hotel rooms, etc. that any one could need. I wouldn't want to hurt the rest of the city too much by going all out like Vegas, where the entire reason for the place being there is the casinos and what's in them.

May 15th, 2004, 10:21 AM
May 15, 2004

Win or Lose, a Place to Show


Edmond Clarke, by his own description a professional gambler and big winner for the day, at an OTB parlor in Brooklyn.

Henry Roman, an ex-jockey, often advises other bettors at an OTB parlor in the Bronx.

By noon throughout the city, the faithful find their way to faded green storefronts. They are mostly men, and they have some thing things in common: time on their hands, money in their pockets, and the willingness to spend both trying to pick a winning horse.

There are 78 Off-Track Betting outlets in New York City. And most of them - they began opening in 1971 - have a solidly entrenched, endlessly colorful customer base.

Most of the men are retired, jobless, or have otherwise temporarily absented themselves from the workplace. Most have some disposable income and indeed wind up disposing of it.

They come not only seeking a winning horse, but also seeking familiar faces and conversations: about long shots and favorites and track conditions and what ever happened to the neighborhood.

And together with their collection of cohorts across the city they placed roughly $1 billion in bets over the last year.

A recent tour of four branches in three boroughs showed that, to some customers, the branches are a place to repair, to serve their gambling addiction. But to many, they are social clubs, where wagering is as much a social as a financial endeavor. And today, with the running of the Preakness Stakes, they are apt to be even more alive and interesting than usual.

In the Bronx, Advice

Under the elevated train along Westchester Avenue in the Bronx a group of men leaned against a 1978 Buick LeSabre and sipped from foam cups of espresso and scribbled in racing forms.

Some clustered around a short man with shined black boots, a white straw hat and the stature of a retired jockey: Henry Roman, 67. He is just over five feet tall and weighs 148 pounds, 50 more than his professional riding weight.

Like many customers at this branch on the avenue just north of the Cross Bronx Expressway, Mr. Roman speaks only Spanish and is a retired horseman with few other places to go. He began his jockey career in Puerto Rico at age 18 and then worked in Miami. He is a valued commodity here.

"People here respect the advice of a man who has worked around horses," he said. "The people here talk about all these different things, and you can't blame them for it. They don't know what to talk about."

Approaching the 1 p.m. post time for the first race at Aqueduct, several dozen men flocked to the central television screen.

Neither of Mr. Roman's two bets - a $2 daily double and a $2 exacta - benefited from his experience in the saddle. The tickets fell into the gutter next to the LeSabre.

In the end, horses are merely dice with legs, he said.

"It's nice being asked for advice," he said, "but the only thing you learn as a jockey is that horses are completely unpredictable."

Orlando Quinones, 45, from the South Bronx, said he favored this OTB branch because of the many customers here who have worked at New York-area tracks, and in Florida and Puerto Rico.

"I live closer to other OTB's, but I come here," said Mr. Quinones, who added that he was a retired blackjack dealer. "It's one of the best shops in the city. We play the horses hard."

"There's a lot of firsthand knowledge here," he said, pointing out several former track hands. "A lot of people worked as jockeys or stable workers at Belmont, Aqueduct, the Meadowlands. Of course, that doesn't mean they're going to win. Nobody really wins in this game, you know that."

Roberto Oller, 61, a postal supervisor born in Puerto Rico, said he cared little for tips he might pick up, or for methodical wagering.

"Nobody has a formula," said Mr. Oller, who has been following horse racing for 52 years and is a daily customer at this branch. "You have to come for fun. If you're coming for money, something's wrong."

In Manhattan, Pure Science

In downtown Manhattan, on a stretch of Lafayette Street on the western edge of Chinatown, there is an OTB branch opposite the Excellent Dumpling House.

By about 2 p.m., after the second race at Aqueduct, there were dozens of men outside the branch smoking. Many local horseplayers come to this branch as an alternative to the busy Chatham Square parlor in Chinatown, which OTB officials say has the largest intake of all OTB branches.

Not that Lafayette Street, a two-floor branch, is a study in serenity. The ground-floor room is crowded and musty. The customers are mostly Chinese men. Several of them, dressed in leisure suits or blazers, sat against a glass-block wall. An elderly man dressed in neat slacks and loafers squatted on the tile floor staring up at the simulcast screens.

Just before the third race at Aqueduct, a man in a soiled white kitchen uniform rushed in, copied down the latest scratches and odds and placed his bets.

Mark Eng, 57, a postal supervisor and a regular customer here, explained, "This isn't your typical OTB."

"A lot of these guys can't even read the racing form," he said. "They just look at the numbers: the odds and previous times for a horse. They give the jockeys Chinese names, any names, so it's easier to discuss them."

"When you've done this long enough, you just bet on instinct anyway," he continued. "A lot of these guys have moved out of Chinatown but still come here to see the same old faces and to pass a few hours of daily life."

Another customer, Eddie Eng, said, "It's a better way to play, with just numbers. It's purer, like a science."

This Mr. Eng, a 70-year-old retired waiter, had no real chemistry going. His bet, a trifecta, had the right three horses but in the wrong finishing order. He missed out on a $600 payout. He stood in the larger room upstairs, with its banks of big windows, and explained that the place served as a social center for many elderly Chinatown residents.

"The old people have no place to go," he said. "Every morning, I exercise in the park and then come here. I don't want to stay home."

A 78-year-old man with a cap set cockeyed on his head heard this and began ranting: "Everyone comes here to lose." The customers began tittering and shaking their heads as if they'd seen it all before.

"I've lost here my whole life," said the man, known to regulars as Mr. Chin. "I've lost a half-million dollars here."

Downstairs, a group bantered in Cantonese with a big, ginger-haired Irishman whose Chinese had a certain Bowery burr. The man, John Andersen, 43, said he learned Cantonese growing up in Chinatown, where he now owns several sewing factories.

"They used to call them sweatshops, but mine isn't," he said. "I pay too much, and the only one sweating there is me."

"Very few of these guys even speak English, or at least won't let on that they do," said Mr. Andersen, who answers to Red. As the horses rounded the back stretch in the fourth race at Aqueduct, he began repeating: "Dead, I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm dead."

The No. 5 horse ran out of the money.

A short, hunched-over man followed Mr. Andersen around the room, heckling him. "You can't even write a winner down on a piece of paper, Red," he said. "All your talk, you should have been a schoolteacher."

In Carroll Gardens, Good Fellows

Customers at the OTB branch at Court and Sackett Streets in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, said that it used to be a place where characters like those in the gangster movie "Goodfellas" gathered. The neighborhood changed and now it's just good fellows.

"This place is mostly old geeps," said a city bus driver standing outside the door. "Geeps, you know, good old Italian guys from the neighborhood."

He handicapped both the horses and the bettors as they arrived.

"See now, here comes the Mush," he said, then shouting in the door: "Hey, Frankie, guess who's here? The Mush. Every time he comes, this guy, I start to lose. Go home, Mush. Please go home."

Inside, Gerry LoVerdi, a retired city police sergeant who spent much of his career with the vice squad, whipped out a wad of bills thick enough to choke a thoroughbred.

"I haven't caught a winner in seven months," complained Mr. LoVerdi, known in the neighborhood as Gerry Moonbeam. He has a thin mustache and wore his gold chains outside his dark, collarless designer shirt.

"They've faded away now, but a lot of heavy hitters from the old neighborhood used to come and bet big money here," he said. "At one time, this branch had one of OTB's highest intakes. These guys bet a lot of money, but you know something, they were all nice guys. Because of them, your daughter could walk these streets and be safe."

A large man walked in wearing a shiny, black Members Only jacket with an ornate Trump Plaza logo on it. Mr. LoVerdi teased the man: "He works in Atlantic City, but he makes his donations here."

Then there was Gaetano D'Amato, 68, a retired longshoreman. His forearms were covered with tattoos, but he was dressed like a gentleman, in a fine straw hat and a silk ascot.

"I was born and lived my whole life here, on the same block on Woodhull Street," he said, looking out the window at a young man in a T-shirt and long sideburns pushing a stroller. "But this neighborhood is really changing."

Mr. LoVerdi called over a guy named Mickey, who wanted nothing to do with any newspaper interview. "Ay, get that camera out of here," he said. "What do you want with me? I've been losing money on the horses for 40 years."

Then Tony Alimeni, 79, came over with something to say.

"They call horseracing the sport of kings, but even a king could go poor at the track, and a poor man can get rich as a king," said Mr. Alimeni, known as Tony the Dancer, because he used to teach dance . "My complaint is, with everything they give these horses now for their circulation and whatnot, they treat the horses better than us humans."

In Brooklyn, Long Shots

The OTB parlor on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn is next to the Emmanuel Deliverance Temple. The church door was closed the other night, but there was lively preaching among the betting congregation in this long betting parlor filled mostly with Caribbean men, some impeccably dressed, others spackle-dusted in jeans and work boots.

One man was trying to convert his friends to his belief that the jockey in the last race was conspiring to hold back his horse down the stretch.

In another group, the men were testifying that some tellers at the branch were scheming against the customers by smoothly skimming their winning bets.

"There are a multitude of sins that go on in this place," proclaimed Terence Knight, 55, of Flatbush, "and there are evils that go on behind that window over there. I say they should investigate this place from the top down."

"If you don't tip some of these tellers, they steal from you," said Mr. Knight, an immigrant from Trinidad and an out-of-work pharmacist. "They can do it here in Flatbush because it's Flatbush, but believe me, this would not stand in other, political savvy neighborhoods."

Another bettor, Angel Diaz, 58, from Flatbush, had a different experience. He said that a female teller had once mistakenly given him the wrong betting receipt; he only realized the error when the horses on the receipt (not his intended picks) hit for $1,500.

"I wound up dating that teller for three years," he said.

Luck was not his lady this day, however. Mr. Diaz said he had blown the remains of his workers' compensation check on losers.

"I'm so broke, I got to walk home," he said.

Bertram Blue, 62, a hospital worker from East New York, chimed in, saying he liked to bet long shots.

"Long shots make you feel good," Mr. Blue said. "I'm a poor man, so I'm looking for a decent payoff." His biggest came a few years back, he said, when a $20 bet on the Kentucky Derby won him $17,000. It went toward a down payment on his house.

Outside, Edmond Clarke, 43, from Flatbush, stood on the sidewalk smoking a big cigar and explaining his betting process.

"I have my methods, man," said Mr. Clarke, a Guyanese immigrant with long dreadlocks and black, wraparound sunglasses. "First you have to look at the horse's grandparents and the great grandparents." Another secret to his success, he said, was betting at this very branch.

"I get my money steady here, man," he said. "I can't get the same feeling at the other OTB's."

There was, though, one problem about the branch, he said.

"It's not like the track," he said. "Here, I have to sneak in my beer in a soda bottle."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 7th, 2004, 03:37 PM
Video lottery law is ruled unconstitutional

July 7, 2004

A New York state appellate court in Albany ruled Wednesday that a 2001 law allowing video lottery terminals, or VLTs, to be placed at racetracks is unconstitutional because the proceeds are not all earmarked for education.

The court found nothing illegal about VLTs themselves, rejecting the plaintiff’s contention that such machines are really just slot machines.

That’s a victory for New York Governor George Pataki, who has proposed increasing the number of VLTs in order to comply with a court order demanding greater state funding for New York City schools.

The appellate court ruled, 5-0, that a provision in the law directing a portion of proceeds from such VLTs be used to support horse breeding and to increase track purses was unconstitutional. The state constitutional amendment legalizing lotteries states that the proceeds "be applied exclusively to or in aid or support of education."

The ruling is expected to be appealed to the state’s supreme court.

Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc

July 7th, 2004, 10:09 PM
July 7, 2004

Appeals Court Rules Against Video Lottery in New York


ALBANY, July 7 — A state appeals court ruled today that a law allowing racetracks to install slotlike video lottery terminals is unconstitutional, casting doubt on Gov. George E. Pataki's plan to use money from the new gambling machines to comply with a court order requiring the state to increase aid to New York City's schools.

The court, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, ruled unanimously that the state's video lottery law is unconstitutional because it calls for giving some of the proceeds of the lottery machines to the horse racing industry, in violation of the constitutional requirement that the net proceeds of lotteries be used to support education.

But the court upheld most of the state's 2001 gambling law, in which Governor Pataki and the Legislature paved the way for the largest expansion of legalized gambling in New York State history. It ruled that while video lottery terminals might look and act like slot machines, which are prohibited under state law, they are not technically slot machines because they are wired into the state's lottery computers. It held that plans to open up to six new Indian-owned casinos in New York State could move forward, and that the state could continue to participate in the multistate Mega Millions lottery.

"We got the proverbial half a loaf," said Cornelius D. Murray, the lawyer who brought the case challenging the 2001 gambling law.

Although the ruling will be appealed to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, for now the decision further complicates the state's muddled efforts to overhaul its education financing system. The state has until July 30 to present a judge with plans to comply with the court order on education, but Governor Pataki and the Legislature have yet to agree on a plan. Both Mr. Pataki and the Republican-led State Senate are counting on money from the video lottery machines to pay for their education proposals.

A spokesman for the governor, Kevin Quinn, said, "While we are still reviewing the decision, we do expect that the ruling will be appealed."

The operators of several racetrack gambling parlors, known as racinos, said that they would continue to operate the video lottery terminals until the case was appealed.

Gambling experts were divided on the impact that the Appellate Division's decision would have if it were upheld.

Some said that the Legislature could simply rewrite the video lottery terminal law, removing the provisions that called for using some of the proceeds to increase the size of the purses won at races and to support horse-breeding efforts in the state.

But without those provisions, others noted, it would be less attractive for racetracks to open gambling parlors, which compete for gambling dollars. Already, the operators of the track at Saratoga have pressed the state to have its video lottery parlor close during racing hours, so gamblers would have to wager at betting windows instead of at the racinos.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company