A recent item in the Times-Union reveals that the $125,000-a-month genius hired to turn around OTB is considering nothing but the usual tired alternatives: closing; getting rid of employees through early retirement; or filing for bankruptcy and abrogating existing collective bargaining agreements. Other items have reported that he’s planning to close several unprofitable branches and, in keeping with hallowed New York tradition, rat out on existing debt to the tracks.
What’s missing from any of the accounts I’ve read is any plan to grow the business by offering new products, other than kiosks in bars to replace the closed branches and a new “sports bar”. The kiosks will save lobor costs and may expose the OTB product to more people, but other reports that OTB may sell its on-line and phone betting operations – which seem to me the likeliest areas of potential growth – would more than offset any gains realized by the kiosks.
Where’s the talk of bringing in new players (or at least stealing existing players from other betting venues) by eliminating the surcharge? By offering free wagering information? By offering the best comps/rebates in the industry? Or by offering free admission to state-of-the art, no-surcharge facilities as New Jersey has done?
The assumption underlying the founding of OTB and the New York racinos is that offering any kind of gambling to a public theretofore devoid of options will instantly result in lots of business. That may have been true when OTB was established, but it certainly isn’t true now. Gambling is a very competitive business, and the horse racing end of it – the context within which OTB operates – has been losing ground for decades to other forms of gambling. The cost-cutting plans that Mr. Rayburn is offering will do nothing more than postpone the inevitable.
OTB needs someone more proactive and consumer-oriented at its helm if it is going to survive. I’ll be glad to make myself available for the bargain price of $100,000 a month, which will, if nothing more, save OTB $300,000 in salary the first year.