A sad day for regulars at the Riverhead OTB

05/08/2011 8:55 AM |
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Bobby Mosely of Riverside (left) and B.B. Morris of Riverhead outside the Riverheaed OTB Friday.

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

Sunday marked 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 there regularly from his home in Millbrook Gables — not just for betting on thoroughbreds but for camaraderie — wasn’t taking the news lightly.

Mr. Morris toted a sign to the parlor Friday asking Suffolk OTB head Jeffrey Casale to reconsider closing the branch. It read: “Where are you going to bet the Kentucky Derby next year?”

“I come here every day,” Mr. Morris said the day before the 137th Run for the Roses. “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 door] know me. All the guys in Dunkin’ Donuts know me.

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

After Sunday, the Route 58 OTB branch, which opened in 1975, will become the third in Suffolk County to close 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 its Southampton and Huntington branches.

The closest remaining OTB branch for Riverhead residents is now in Shirley, although the company has a Qwik-Bet location at CB’s Bar and Grill in Hampton Bays and also offers 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 patronizing 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 visits 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 to cut expenses by taking advantage of early retirement incentives, reducing staff and 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.”

tgannon@timesreview.com