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Off-Track Betting eyes kiosk in Lake Placid

LAKE PLACID — A representative of the Capital District Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. is seeking input on the possibility of bringing an OTB kiosk or two to Lake Placid.

Willsboro resident Lorilee Sheehan, a Capital District Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation board member who represents Essex County, appeared at the North Elba Town Council’s July 13 meeting to ask for councilors’ feedback on the possibility of bringing OTB kiosks to a bar or two in Lake Placid.

Currently, North Elba doesn’t have a games of chance law, so it’s illegal to host any games of chance in town, according to state law. The village of Lake Placid does have a games of chance law.

Town councilors asked Sheehan a few questions, like what the kiosks would look like and whether they operate with cash or cards. They operate with cards, according to Sheehan, and the kiosks are relatively small. The kiosks are usually located in a part of a bar where they’re not obtrusive. There are two venues in Essex County with OTB kiosks, and in those venues, the television screens showing the horse races are usually put up above the bar, so people generally don’t congregate around the kiosks, according to Sheehan.

Sheehan said she hoped to hear feedback from the community about the possibility of bringing OTB to Lake Placid.

Though nearby communities, such as Saranac Lake, have embraced OTB, there’s a long history of opposition to OTB in Lake Placid. The Capital District Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation pushed for years, starting in the late 1970s and ending in the early 1990s, to open a betting parlor in Lake Placid, according to newspaper archives from that time. The organization had even looked at leasing a storefront on Main Street across from the Lake Placid Middle-High School.

The village board, including then-Mayor Gregory Peacock, were unanimously opposed to the idea of bringing OTB to Lake Placid. Peacock and other village representatives appeared before the Essex County Board of Supervisors to request that it support the village’s desire to block OTB from opening a betting parlor in Lake Placid. The late Jack Shea, who was a legendary Olympic speedskater and North Elba town supervisor until 1983, also vehemently opposed OTB at that time. Shea believed the money it would generate would “not compensate for the lapse in morality it would take for the county to embrace the concept of gambling,” a 1981 article in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican reads.

Keene’s town supervisor at the time, Robert Purdy, fought for years to bring OTB to Essex County. Though OTB was never able to establish its parlor in Lake Placid — in 1992, the Essex County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution requesting OTB stop efforts to establish a parlor in the village — Essex County now has OTB kiosks in AuSable Forks and Elizabethtown. Those two kiosks are expected to generate $40,000 in revenue for the county this year, according to Sheehan.

Sheehan told the town council that she believes the image of OTB is “much different” than it was 20 to 25 years ago. She said even if people aren’t betting in Lake Placid, people from Lake Placid may be traveling elsewhere to place bets or may gamble online.

“Betters are going to bet wherever they need to bet,” she said.