It has taken three governors four different tries, but Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders made it official Aug. 17: Genting New York will be the operator of the Aqueduct video lottery terminal casino.
With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, Paterson and the leaders of the Assembly and Senate signed the required memorandum of understanding to permit the Genting plan to move forward. Genting, an affiliate of a Malaysian casino company, will have exclusive rights to run the Aqueduct casino, with 4,500 slot machines, for the next three decades.
But while the approval by Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson appears to seal it for Genting, two last stops along the way are needed: Approvals from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
And while Paterson and the other state leaders were hailing their actions, people inside the industry are likely going to hold their breath until the first VLTs are activated in what Genting officials say could be as soon as six months from now.
“After an extensive review of the applicants and the final Division of Lottery recommendation, I am pleased to announce my support for Genting New York to build and operate the video slots parlor at Aqueduct,” Paterson said. “Genting emerged as the winner of a highly competitive process that saw potential bidders narrowed from an original pool of seven down to one. I commend Senate Conference Leader Sampson and Assembly Speaker Silver for joining me in support of Genting New York and revitalizing the Aqueduct Racetrack.”
Genting was the sole bidder left standing after other bidders either declined to enter the now-fourth different process to select a VLT operator, or were bounced from the bidding by the state Lottery Division, which oversees racetrack casinos in New York.
Genting has promised the cash-starved New York state government an upfront franchise fee payment of $380 million, which is $80 million more than the floor set by the state for bids on the casino.
The Aqueduct project was first approved by the legislature in 2001, but a host of factors has delayed the casino from moving forward. For the New York Racing Association and owners, trainers, and breeders, the facility represents a potential windfall in higher purses and other pots of revenue-sharing money.
The state estimates the Genting bid will result in at least $300 million for the government in annual casino proceeds. The company has made various commitments to hire minority contractors and workers at the casino, and has pledged to plow 1% of its net profits to the Queens neighborhood in which Aqueduct is located.
“Genting, a world-renowned and experienced gaming company, presented a thoughtful and comprehensive proposal for the VLT facility at Aqueduct,” Silver said in a statement. “We look forward to the development of a world-class gaming facility that will maximize revenue for the state of New York, create thousands of jobs, and greatly enhance economic development in the surrounding community for many years to come.”