Legislative Issues Said to Have Stalled OTB Sale

The sale of New York City Off-Track Betting apparently hinges on legislative changes that would make the entity more attractive to potential buyers. Meanwhile, it appears the state legislature may have more time to examine the issue given the fact they may remain in Albany into the summer.

On Thursday, representatives of the bidders for New York City OTB said it's status quo: A group led by Magna Entertainment and Greenwood Racing, and another led by the New York Racing Association, remain in the running for the operation, which handled more than $1 billion last year. Officials indicated the partnerships remain intact.

Both parties have done quite a bit of lobbying to make the case as to why they should be awarded New York City OTB if in fact it is sold. NYRA, which operates Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga, joined with Churchill Downs Inc. and the TV Games Network to strengthen it's position. Months ago, Magna and Greenwood hired well-connected New York lobbyists.

Bob Green, president of Greenwood Racing, which owns Philadelphia Park, a ring of off-track betting parlors, and an account wagering system, said Thursday "the issue has been the extent or otherwise of the legislative package that would accompany the potential privitization" of New York City OTB. In New York, there are complicating factors in regard to how and when signals are brought into racetracks and OTB parlors; some deal with breed and time of day.

"(New York City OTB) needs to be operated a certain way," Green said. "There is legislative change we believe is necessary for its successful operation, and the evaluation of that is causing the delay (in the sale)."

In May, NYRA board member and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said through a spokesman that New York City OTB belongs in the hands of NYRA, not entities from out of state. Magna has attempted to make inroads in New York, and last year floated a plan for a racetrack in the Niagara Falls area.