A sad day for regulars at the Riverhead OTB

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Bobby Mosely of Riverside (left) and B.B. Morris of Riverhead outside the Riverheaed OTB Friday.

Sunday marks the last day of operation for the Off Track Betting parlor on Route 58 in Riverhead.

And B.B. Morris  — who for years has walked regularly from his home in Millbrook Gables, not simply for betting thoroughbreds but for camaraderie — wasn’t taking the news lightly.

He toted a sign to the parlor Friday asking Suffolk OTB head Jeffrey Casale to reconsider closing the branch.

“Where are you going to bet the Kentucky Derby next year?” the sign read.

“I come here every day,” Mr. Morris said the day before the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, “I’m going to miss it. They ought to keep it open. It’s just good entertainment and a way to meet to meet friends. I know everybody that comes in here. All the guys in the Chinese restaurant (next to OTB) know me. All the guys in Dunkin’ Donuts know me.

“Now that I’ll have nowhere to go, it will be miserable.”

After Sunday the Route 58 branch, which opened in 1975, will become the third OTB branch in Suffolk County to be closed this year. Suffolk OTB is in the midst of developing a reorganization plan as part of the Chapter 9 process in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and has already closed it’s Southampton and Huntington branches.

The closest remaining OTB branch for North Fork residents is now in Shirley, although the company has Qwik-Bet locations at several bars, and also has internet betting.

Mr. Morris said he generally bets about $20 to $30 per visit to the parlor.

“I ain’t no big bettor,” he said. “The most I ever won was about $800, back when I was working.”

He said he’s been retired for about 10 years and since he walks to the OTB, he doesn’t anticipate going to the Shirley branch.

It’s a sad day for many of the local regulars.

“I’m retired, so it’s something to do during the day,” said Bobby Mosley of Riverhead, who said he goes to the Riverhead OTB about four times a week. “You meet a lot of other people here, and it’s something to do for entertainment. I guess I’ll just have to find something else to do.”

Asked if he won a lot of money there, Mr. Mosley, who retired 10 years ago from MacArthur Airport in Islip, said, “No. It’s a losing proposition. For me, at least.”

Mr. Casale said at the OTB board meeting in November that the organization’s current situation “is not good,” but that officials have aggressively managed expenses down by taking advantage of early retirement incentives, reducing staff, reducing overtime, and closing branches.

He said Suffolk OTB has been running a negative cash balance for the last three years.

The company has said it expects to emerge from Chapter 9 bankruptcy as “a stronger and more profitable corporation.”

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