A plan to close New York's off-track betting parlors could erase one of the last vestiges of the gritty city of the past.
"On Tuesday, the board overseeing the city's OTB operations voted to close all 71 outposts by mid-June. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that the state rules governing OTB spending were shortchanging the city, and that if the parlors were not closed, the city would have to start subsidizing them. State officials are contesting the closings."
"The branches began opening in 1971, and each is a prism through which one can see an old neighborhood. As New York City has lost its grit, OTBs have persisted, like exhibits in the Damon Runyon Hustlers' Hall of Fame, standing sentry against the march of upscale coffee chains, big-name retailers and new condominiums with exercise rooms."
"Inside, there is an ever-narrowing slice of New York that still belongs to the hustler and the old timer. To the predominantly male clientele, these parlors are more than just a place to take a chance, they are unofficial social clubs with core groups of regulars."