The downtown betting parlor filled at 3 p.m. yesterday with 40 men, staring at screens under fluorescent lights, all pinching small white pieces of paper.

Hours earlier, the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. had voted to close branches like these, a hallmark of the city’s streets and a place for gamblers to bet, linger and socialize.

A last-minute vote by the State Senate is OTB’s only possible salvation — and senators must vote by Friday.

“Friday, we’ll wait,” said a bookie at the Park Place parlor, who wondered whether she’d have a job next week. Still, she said, other than drenching rains canceling races, “The mood hasn’t changed.”

On Tuesday, the State Assembly approved a plan that would restructure the bankrupt agency. But if the Senate doesn’t approve the plan by Friday, the state will shut down all OTB betting, in effect ending a New York institution. The business voted yesterday to lay off more than 1,000 of its employees.

“It’s better closed,” said one man smoking outside who didn’t give his name but admitted he frequents the OTB three times a week. “We’ll save money.”

Some pondered a trip to Meadowlands Racetrack to watch the races live. But most men said the parlors were the best place to play the ponies.

Another better — who identified himself as “John” — rides the PATH train several times a week to the OTB’s parlor near the World Trade Center station. He’s a regular to bet on horses — “Put $2 on #9,” he paused to say as he spoke to Metro — and blamed the OTB’s fade into the limelight on a younger crowd interested only in football games.

“Turn out the lights,” he said, “the party’s over.”

Latest From ...