NYRA Plans to Make New Pitch for NYCOTB

Despite plans by the new mayor of New York City to delay the sale of New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., the head of the New York Racing Association said he will make a new pitch to purchase the lucrative corporation.

Barry Schwartz, the NYRA chairman, said he plans to present a revised plan to city officials in the coming weeks that, he hopes, will prod the new administration, headed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to turn over NYCOTB to NYRA.

Last year, NYRA lost out to a group headed by Magna Entertainment, which offered a $260-million up-front payment for NYCOTB. The previous mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, rejected claims by NYRA that Magna's takeover of the corporation would be bad for New York racing. Bloomberg has delayed the sale for at least a year.

Schwartz declined to provide any specifics about what new approach NYRA would take with the city on the matter.

"My goal is to be able to show the mayor that it could be more lucrative to do something with NYRA, and better for the city, the state, and the industry, than to run it himself,'" Schwartz said.

Schwartz's plan would rely on Bloomberg flatly rejecting the previous administration's deal with Magna. Officials with Magna did not return telephone calls for comment.

"We are in the process of creating a model to present to him that would work for us and would work for him,'' Schwartz said of the plan he hopes to personally present to Bloomberg. When asked if he knows Bloomberg, the NYRA chief said: "No, but I intend to."

The bidding war last year between NYRA and Magna created sour feelings that still linger in New York racing circles. NYRA officials accused Magna of trying to stack the deck in its favor by hiring a team of politically-connected lobbyists.

However, the Buffalo News recently reported that NYRA was deep into politics itself last year; top NYRA officials, including nearly every member of its board, pumped $300,000 in campaign contributions to New York's political parties and influential officeholders, including a number of big donations to Gov. George Pataki during the Saratoga meet last August.

NYRA has longstanding allies, particularly in the state Senate. The New York Post reported this week that the Bloomberg administration, concerned in part about legislators' reluctance to let it sell NYCOTB, is considering a plan whereby it would go to the bond market to get a single, up-front payment in exchange for giving up future NYCOTB revenues. No details of the plan were available.

NYCOTB handled about $1 billion in 2001, but several city officials said they do not see handle growth in future years. The question, they said, is whether the city should still try to sell the corporation or make changes in its operation to make it more lucrative.

Bloomberg has said he wants a "super executive'' appointed to try to juice up revenues for the city's budget, which is facing huge deficits in the coming years as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. NYCOTB provides about $30 million a year to the city.