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More Than Ever, New Yorkers Eat Up Off-Track Betting

Gambling: Putting OTB in restaurants is latest expansion of wagering in the city, designed to revive flagging industry.

December 25, 2000|JOSH GETLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Yet some members were not convinced that the popular bar is a good place for an OTB parlor. The problem, board member James Gallagher said, is that "they'll want to keep going into more and more restaurants. And soon it won't stop with horse racing. Slowly, all this gambling becomes a part of our culture. We'll wake up one day to find that it's everywhere."

We should be so lucky, a chorus of OTB officials answers. The agency constantly is looking for new restaurant clients, but doesn't always get a friendly response. Cornstein initially tried to lure the famed 21, but owners said no dice, in part because of OTB's image. Officials now focus on more modest establishments.

In a new marketing video, O'Neill and other owners rave about the benefits of having an OTB operation under their roofs. The film shows happy diners, including children, while gambling goes on in a separate room. One by one, the owners say their profits are going up--along with customer satisfaction. Nowhere, however, is there a cautionary note about problem gambling.

"New Yorkers love watching a race and making a wager," said Ira Block, OTB's acting president. "With this new restaurant program, we're building on that success and opening up a whole new market for people to enjoy."

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