Sheldon Silver, New York lawmaker who said Magna has inside track for off-track betting corporation.

Sheldon Silver, New York lawmaker who said Magna has inside track for off-track betting corporation.

Associated Press

Magna May Have NYC-OTB Inside Track

New York's top Democrat in the state Legislature said New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has told him the city government is inclined to sell its massive off track betting operation to a consortium of racing interests headed by Magna Entertainment.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Giuliani called him last week to talk about the long overdue plan to sell New York City Off Track Betting Corp. "He told me he's leaning'' to Magna, the Manhattan lawmaker said.

Sources say Magna has come in with a far higher bid for the betting corporation than its chief rival, the New York Racing Association. The two OTB suitors were asked to submit scaled-down proposals that would require less ambitious changes in state law as part of an attempt by the Giuliani administration to still sell off the OTB this year before Giuliani's term expires.

Calls to the mayor's press office were not returned.

A flurry of activity on the deal erupted Tuesday at the state Capitol after word spread Giuliani was calling Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, whose approvals are necessary for the legislation needed to complete the sale, to inform them that Magna had been selected. But Silver said Tuesday evening the last time he talked to Giuliani was last week, at which point he said Magna had presented a better deal for the city and that he was leaning to the team headed by Canadian industrialist Frank Stronach.

Officials with the Magna team either did not return calls for comment or said they had gotten no official word that the city was close to accepting its bid.

NYRA officials, led by Chairman Barry Schwartz, was to have met with Michael Hess, the city's corporation counsel handing the sale, on Monday, but that meeting was cancelled by Hess. On Monday, Schwartz told The Blood-Horse that it would be "an affront'' to the entire racing industry if Magna won the lucrative OTB contract.

"I know there's no question NYRA should get OTB. NYRA should own OTB just like every other racetrack elsewhere own their OTBs. A decision to give this property to the Magna group would be the most ridiculous decision in the history of the city of New York, and everyone knows it,'' Schwartz said earlier this week.