New York Mayor: To Sell or Not to Sell NYCOTB?

The new mayor of New York City left open the prospect that he may still proceed with the sale of New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., a deal some of his aides are pushing him to make to raise money for the deficit-ridden city.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Jan. 28 he has begun a search for a new head for NYCOTB because "at the moment, we don't have anybody really trying to maximize the value of that asset.''

But whether he will proceed with the sale of the $1-billion betting empire that was begun by his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, remains a question. Bloomberg, in Albany meeting with legislative leaders to discuss what the state can do to help the city in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said in the coming weeks he will unveil details of how he will resolve a looming $4-billion deficit.

He did not say if the sale of the OTB corporation, which Giuliani last year said would raise an immediate $260 million for the city, was on his list of ideas.

"I've fundamentally never thought that we should be in the gambling business, but it is a valuable asset to the city,'' Bloomberg told reporters after a brief session with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat.

New York City officials are determining whether the city budget needs the ongoing revenue from NYCOTB operations, or whether it should be sold "for a significant amount of money, which would help the rest of the city.''

Bloomberg did not address whether he might try to re-bid the OTB sale that was entered into last year by Giuliani. The city last summer tapped a team led by Magna Entertainment, which was joined by Greenwood Racing and Thoroughbred owners and developers Robert Baker and William Mack. The city estimated the deal, over time, was worth $389 million.

Giuliani rejected a bid by the New York Racing Association, which engaged in a nasty war of words with Magna, headed by Frank Stronach, during the bidding process. Officials said NYRA's bid came in $113 million lower than Magna's offer.

Despite efforts by Magna's well-placed lobbying team, the deal died, in part because the city was unable to focus on the sale following the World Trade Center attacks. NYRA also has key allies in the state Senate who were in no rush to push for the sale.