Committee choosing NYCOTB suitors to be named this week

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is expected by the end of the week to appoint a special committee that will decide who can formally bid to purchase the city's off-track betting franchise.

As of Sept. 1, 10 companies and partnerships expressed interest in buying the New York City OTB. They are: AmTote with TAB Corp. of Victoria, Australia; Catskill OTB; Churchill Downs; Greenwood Racing; French magazine publisher Hachette Filipacchi; financial service company Leucadia National Corp., which has an interest in the Maryland Jockey Club; Magna Entertainment; New York Racing Association with The TV Games Network; a New York regional OTB partnership including Capital, Catskill, Nassau, Suffolk, and Western; and Penn National Gaming.

"What happens next is that the committee meets and will decide what are the most worthy proposals," said Michael Hess, general counsel for the city of New York and vice chairman of the NYCOTB board of directors. He said the committee should be appointed by the end of the week and include three or four top-ranked city officials. Hess said some proposals submitted have included specific bids, while others have said they don't know enough about NYCOTB's finances to make a bid. During the next couple weeks, companies and partnerships will have access to NYCOTB financial statements and contracts so they can make informed bids.

In the next phase of the process, the city will ask for formal proposals from all only a few of the interested bidders, according to Hess. An outright sale of the OTB is not set in stone. City leaders are still considering awarding a contract to manage the OTB, but Hess said that is unlikely.

"To be honest, there is more interest in a purchase," he said.

Hess also said the city will likely want to retain a minority interest in the OTB.

"It is not definitive, but we think it's what we want," he said. "It is hard to know how this will go. This has never been done before."

NYCOTB is the most lucrative OTB operation in North America with 80 outlets in New York's five boroughs and a telephone wagering business that handles $1 billion annually.