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Friday, September 21
Sale of NYC OTB seems unlikely




NEW YORK -- Racing and legislative leaders expressed doubts on Friday that the state would be able to proceed on New York City's plan to sell New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation, citing the vast amount of manpower and work being consumed by the effort to address the recent terrorist attacks on the city.

In July, the city tabbed a partnership headed by Magna Entertainment as the winning bidder for OTB, beating out the New York Racing Association. The sale cannot proceed unless an array of legislative changes are made to state racing law. Meanwhile, city officials have dropped all lobbying efforts to deal with the crisis in the city, lobbyists said, and legislators have tabled indefinitely any plans to move the sale forward.

"I haven't heard one word about the sale since the attacks," said one Albany-based racing lobbyist. "And I think that's because at this point no one really cares."

Barry Schwartz, the chairman of NYRA, also said Friday that the sale has not come up in any discussions since last week. Schwartz was highly critical of Mayor Rudolph Guiliani after the sale was announced, but he has moved far from that position in the wake of Guiliani's recent work on behalf of the city.

"I would have to believe that the sale would be on the backburner as far as the city's priorities," Schwartz said. "And I don't see it getting moved up anytime soon. I guess that's good for us, but right now, it's not something that we are thinking about. We have other worries right now."

In August, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno asked Sen. William Larkin, the chairman of the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee, to hold three hearings on the sale in the fall. Jackie Fiore, Larkin's press secretary, said Friday that the hearings "have been put on hold."

"We do expect to hold those hearings at some time," Fiore said. "But I can't tell you when we might have them. Fall might be the best estimate I can give."

Mark Hansen, a spokesman for Sen. Bruno, said Friday that Bruno has not had any discussions regarding the sale recently.

"The last we left it was when we asked the racing and wagering committee to schedule hearings," Hansen said.

"As far as I know, they haven't been scheduled, and right now, our priorities are elsewhere."

The terrorist attacks are also expected to have an impact on federal legislation, lobbyists in Washington said on Friday. Currently, racing is monitoring efforts to pass bills that would loosen immigration laws to deal with a shortage of backstretch labor and is working with Congressmen Bill Goodlatte on a bill that would restrict wagering over the internet.

"The simple fact is that if it isn't a big, big issue, not much is going to get done this year," said one racing official who lobbies on behalf of racing

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