June 8, 2005
OTB goes upscale
The lowest rung on the ladder of gambling, at least in New York, is without a doubt the OTB. Anyone who has one in their neighborhood is familiar with the haggard old guys who hang out in there, the empty bottles of Wild Irish Rose on the sidewalk outside, and the sad traffic between the OTBs and the check cashing places that are often, conveniently, right next door (a great example of synergy in local business!)
But now the OTB has decided its image needs some work. We need a new, glamorous, sexy OTB! An OTB for sophisticated, urbane New Yorkers! An OTB that can attract those paragons of reputability, women! Gambling is still gambling, no matter where you do it, but OTB wants to keep its traditional, toothless patrons and its newer, beautiful, wealthier patrons very much apart.
The Daily News reports that last night the gaming agency held a fashion show in Chelsea, invited a lot of sleek pretty people, and tried to reinvent itself in anticipation of the Belmont Stakes and other high-profile gambling events. There are now 13 restaurants that are OTB locations, and presumably they will not smell like urine and whiskey.
However, shaking the traditional image might be difficult for OTB, even with the new push. Sal Zaffarese, who played the ponies yesterday while enjoying a beer and a plate of fried calamari at a restaurant that offers betting services, was interviewed by the Daily News.
"Women might not know that this is a nice place, a safe place," he said. "It's not like the parlors, with the $2 bums hanging out all day."
So, I guess gambling is nice and safe as long as you bet high.
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