A deal to sell the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. still awaits final approval from New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and the delay could thwart the plan for this year.
The proposed sale, now down to competing bids by groups led by the New York Racing Association and Magna Entertainment, would need state legislative approval for it to proceed. But a host of political opposition is awaiting the winning bidder as Giuliani's two-term reign as mayor comes to an end.
One prominent NYRA board member, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, supports NYRA's takeover of NYCOTB, which last year handled more than $1 billion. "George's position is clear: He thinks New York City OTB belongs with NYRA," said Steinbrenner's spokesman, Howard Rubenstein.
Rubenstein gave Steinbrenner's opinion on the pending sale after sources said the owner of the Yankees, already in longstanding talks with Giuliani about a future home for the baseball team, personally reached out to the mayor to lobby on NYRA's behalf. But Rubenstein said Steinbrenner "never personally talked to the mayor" about NYRA's bid.
Meanwhile, speculation has been whirling that Magna may be eyeing the purchase of other tracks in New York as a way to convince policymakers in Albany and New York City that it has a home in the state. NYRA backers have portrayed Magna chairman Frank Stronach as an interloper.
At a recent annual meeting of Magna shareholders in Toronto, Stronach sought to portray the OTB deal as inconsequential to the company's long-term growth. "If we don't get it, it's not the end of the world, because everything has a price," he said.