NEW YORK -- Howard Samuels, developer of the nation's first off-track betting system, inventor of plastic 'Baggies,' president of the North American Soccer League and twice candidate for governor died Friday of a heart attack. He was 65.
Samuels died in his apartment in Manhattan. He was president and chief executive officer of the North American Soccer League at the time of his death.
From 1971 to 1973, Samuels developed New York Off-Track Betting, earning his nickname 'Howie the Horse.'
Despite both business and the racing industry's opposition, Samuels built an organization of 110 OTB offices, handling up to 400,000 transactions and $5 million a day. OTB paid $100 million to the government and the racing industry in 1974.
Samuels' political career began in 1960 when Sen. John F. Kennedy appointed him as a political adviser in his bid for president.
In 1966, he was nominated for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket. In 1967, President Johnson appointed him under-secretary of commerce and in 1968 Johnson appointed him administrator of the Small Business Administration. Samuels was also an adviser to President Jimmy Carter.
He was a losing candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1970 and 1974.
'Howard has been a personal friend whom I have admired since I first entered public service,' said Gov. Mario Cuomo. 'I believe Howard Samuels had the instincts, talents and compassion to have been a great governor.'
In June 1982, Samuels agreed to serve two years as NASL president. The league had been criticized for squandering money.
'He fought vigorously to enhance the NASL and to promote the sport of soccer in North America,' said NASL General Counsel Mark Bienstock. 'He lived until 64, but he accomplished more in 64 years than most considered possible in 200 years.'
Samuels, born in 1919 in Rochester, N.Y., entered the Army from MIT during World War II and became a lieutenant colonel under Gen. George Patton at age 25.
He helped liberate the Nazi camp at Buchenwald, which made a life-long impression on him. He became an active Zionist and served in human and civil rights causes, marching at Selma, Ala., in support of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Samuels and his brother Richard set up Kordite Corp., which grew into the largest manufacturer of plastic packaging in the world. They invented the 'Baggies,' plastic wrappers and the company now does more than $1 billion a year in sales.
Samuels was married twice and had 10 children, including eight daughters.
Funeral services were being arranged.