New York Gov. David Paterson is turning up the heat on legislative leaders, prodding them to make a quick decision on the new operator to run the Aqueduct video lottery terminal casino.
Genting New York briefed a panel of state senators Aug. 9 about their bid –embraced by Paterson and the state Lottery Division—to run the facility and its 4,500 VLTs at the Queens racetrack. But Paterson said legislative leaders, who have to unanimously agree with him on the Genting bid for it to be accepted, have known for nearly a month that the subsidiary of a Malaysian-based casino company was the sole bidder left in the running.
“They have had three weeks to examine how they have felt about the Genting group running Aqueduct,” Paterson told reporters. “I don’t see any reason for further delay. I don’t see any reason for any vigorous research because they’ve had time to do that.”
Hours later, Senate Democratic leaders announced their support for the Genting bid.
“Nothing is more important than creating jobs. The acceptance of Genting puts New York on the fast track to rebuild our local and state economy through sound economic development and immediate and long-term job creation,’’ said Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson.
With Paterson and Sampson on board, that leaves the final decision on whether Genting will move ahead now up to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat.
There is no word yet from Silver on his decision, but the chairman of the Assembly racing committee said he believes Silver will also be signing off on Genting.
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Westchester County Democrat, said he contacted Silver’s office Aug. 9 to recommend the speaker back the Genting bid.
“Barring any unforeseen difficulty, I see no issues,” Pretlow said. “I recommended we accept them as soon as possible.” He said the Genting bid, besides providing $80 million more to the state than expected, will help the New York Racing Association get out of its annual cash flow problems and be a financial benefit to the entire racing industry in the state.
“We can’t slow it down,” Pretlow said of the Assembly and its consideration of Genting.
“I’ve recommended to the Speaker that we accept them. I did not get anything negative back, so my assumption is that we will,” Pretlow added.
The Aqueduct gaming project was first approved by the legislature in 2001. This is now the fourth bidding process by the third gubernatorial administration trying for closure.
Genting has offered the state $380 million in an upfront franchise fee payment, which is $80 million more than the minimum required. The state is counting on the money to help keep its precariously balanced budget from dipping into the red.
“The quicker we can make a decision, the faster we can get this money into the economy,” Paterson said.
By law, the governor and the heads of the Assembly and Senate must unanimously agree on Genting. So far, there have been no public comments from the legislative leaders to suggest they have any major problems with Genting, which surfaced out of nowhere earlier this year to bid for the project.
The company has been involved in financing tribal casino projects in Connecticut and New York, and has an ownership stake in the company that owns Monticello Raceway, which has VLTs.