Updated on 09/15/2011 12:44PM

Schwartz to city: 'Stupid' move


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Barry Schwartz, the chairman and chief executive officer of the New York Racing Association, vowed to fight the announced sale of New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation to a group led by Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment and came out swinging during a Thursday afternoon news conference.

"It's really hard to imagine the city could make such a stupid decision," Schwartz said while fielding questions in the press box at Saratoga.

Schwartz blasted Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, city corporate counsel Mike Hess, and Stronach. He promised "a long fight" to prevent the necessary legislation from being passed to complete the sale. "I think it's highly unlikely they're going to get the changes they want," Schwartz said.

Schwartz said the announcement at City Hall was a "grandstand play" by Mayor Giuliani, who boasted about keeping a campaign promise from eight years ago to sell OTB.

"He's not going to be in office and fulfill that promise; that's a certainty," Schwartz said. "He's got four months left on his term, and this isn't happening in four months."

Schwartz said he heard about the sale from NYRA lobbyist Billy Crowell but only after a reporter had called Schwartz about a rumored announcement. Schwartz said he has not heard from Hess in weeks.

"Mike Hess has never kept his word about anything during this entire process, and those of you who have called him know he doesn't return phone calls," Schwartz said. "For a government to run a sale like this is a disgrace."

Schwartz disputed the figures in a statement by Magna that Magna would pay $260 million down and a projected total of up to $389 million and scoffed at the notion that Stronach would invest $50 million to renovate the city's OTB parlors.

"Does that come after he does Santa Anita and Gulfstream and all those other racetracks that he's been talking about for how many years? Or does that come right away?" Schwartz said.

This was the first setback for Schwartz, who made the acquisition of the city OTB his top priority when he became chariman last October. Schwartz recently scored big with racing fans by getting a lower parimutuel takeout on wagers.