Magna-Led Group Hires Lobbyist in New York

A Magna Entertainment-led group that submitted a bid for New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. has added a well-placed lobbyist at the state capital, an unusual pre-emptive move for a contract that hasn't been awarded.

GMR-NY, a company incorporated in Delaware, has signed a deal to pay $110,000 to Patricia Lynch, who until Dec. 31 had been the closest adviser to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat.

Meanwhile, sources said the Magna-led group also has negotiated to hire William Powers, who recently left as the powerful state Republican Party chairman. A spokesman for the group said he wouldn't confirm or deny the possible hiring of Powers, who has close ties to Republicans in the state Senate. Powers couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Powers recently joined an Albany firm whose clients have included the TV Games Network. TVG is aligned with the New York Racing Association in its attempt to purchase New York City OTB. How the conflict would be resolved if, as sources indicated, Powers is hired by the Magna group, is unclear.

A decision on the sale of the NYCOTB could be made by New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as early as this week. If Giuliani goes ahead with the sale, it would still need approval from the state legislature and Gov. George Pataki because several changes in the state racing law are required.

The timing of the lobbying contract with Lynch -- it comes before the sale has been announced -- raised eyebrows in the racing community in New York. The group that hired Lynch is composed of Magna, Greenwood Racing, and Thoroughbred owners Robert Baker and William Mack.

Hal Handel, chief executive officer of Greenwood Racing, said the hiring of Lynch should not be taken as a sign his group is convinced it will win the NYTOTB bid, or that it has been given advance word on anything. Instead, he characterized it as just good business planning.

"We think having the right professional people early gives us the best chance of prevailing," Handel said. "If we don't prevail in the city, it's a little bit of money spent and no harm lost."

Sources at the Capitol said the Magna group may have the toughest battle on its hands trying to get through the state legislature and the Pataki administration if it wins the NYCOTB bid. Its chief competitor in the NYCOTB race is NYRA, a group with far more friends at the Capitol.

On the possible hiring of Powers, who is friends with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a top NYRA ally in Albany, Handel referred calls to Mack, the New York Thoroughbred owner who is part of the Magna bidding group. Mack declined to comment Wednesday.