Spitzer Report Hints at Possible Belmont Casino

Spitzer Report Hints at Possible Belmont Casino
Photo: AP
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer

The Spitzer administration is signaling it could be game for the opening of a casino at Belmont Park, despite its recent public plan that removed the track from the running for a gambling facility.

Buried within a report this week from Gov. Eliot Spitzer's budget office on the fiscal condition of the state budget is a brief notation that says the state is still expecting revenues from a Belmont casino in its long-term financial plan.

The administration’s mid-year financial report said the state is expecting total revenues from video lottery terminal revenue-sharing at racetrack casinos to grow to $644 million in 2009 and to $850 million in 2010. Those figures, the report said, reflect “the expected opening of the Aqueduct facility in 2009/10 and the Belmont facility in 2010/11.’’

Spitzer recently recommended the New York Racing Association get a 30-year extension to its exclusive franchise. The plan calls for a casino at Aqueduct  but not Belmont. Its exclusion of Belmont has drawn criticism from some Long Island officials and others. The administration earlier this year had warmed to the idea of a Belmont casino, although Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat and ally of the governor, opposes a facility at the track.

Asked why the administration is still counting on Belmont VLT revenues when Spitzer did not recommend a Belmont casino, a spokesman for the governor said the revenue was included in a previous financial plan by the state.

“So, the decision was made not to take it out yet,’’ said Jeffrey Gordon, a Spitzer spokesman. He called the Belmont accounting “a placeholder’’ for the future.

“We figure as we’re negotiating the racing issue that we decided not to take it out. If it doesn’t happen, we have plenty of time to take it out,’’ he said of the revenue the state is now expecting to flow from a Belmont casino in 2010 or 2011.

The governor and Legislature are still stalled in talks over the future of the racing franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. NYRA’s franchise expires Dec. 31. If no deal is made by then, Senate Republicans have threatened to let a state provision kick in that permits a state oversight panel to take over the franchise.

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