A new operator for the long-planned slot casino at Aqueduct Racetrack is scheduled to be chosen by the first week of August. But this time, Governor David Paterson and other legislative leaders will stay out of the awards process until the final phase.
Paterson says he will accept the recommendation of an “apolitical” committee made up of New York Lottery officials and members and a representative of the state Division of Budget. The committee has 12 weeks to choose a racino operator, after which the deal must be approved by Senate and Assembly leaders. The governor and legislative leaders would have to unanimously agree on a winner.
In January, lawmakers led by Paterson chose Aqueduct Entertainment Group to build and operate the 4,500-machine slot casino, which is projected to realize $1 million a day in revenues for the state and bolster the sagging horse-racing industry.
But that choice was rejected in March amid state and federal probes into political favoritism. Lottery officials at the time said some of AEG’s investors were “unlicensable.”
The new round of bidding-the fourth under three governors since 2001-requires “every principal, key individual or direct investor” to be licensed by the lottery division and pass background checks. For public companies, anyone with more than 5 percent in company stock will have to be licensed; for a private company, anyone with a more than 1 percent share will be subject to the licensing procedure.
The request for proposals requires that bidders put up $1 million to enter the bidding, and offer at least $300 million for the casino franchise, to be paid soon after selection.
Meanwhile, the New York Racing Association, which had relied on anticipated Aqueduct revenues to support horse tracks in the state, says it will sue if it does not get a requested $17 million loan from the government.
NYRA claims the government promised to pay its operating funds if the racino did not open by April 2009. More than a year later, the organization that supports Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont Park says it could run out of money by the end of the year without a loan.