New Aqueduct Casino Proposals Being Accepted

Action comes after initial deal was rescinded earlier this year.

New York State has issued a new call for bidders to operate a casino at Aqueduct, nine years after the project was first approved by the legislature.

The new Request For Proposals was issued by the state Lottery Division, which regulates racetrack-based casinos in the state.

The new bidding comes after the state earlier this year had selected Aqueduct Entertainment Group to run the casino and its 4,500 slot machines. But Gov. David Paterson rescinded the deal, and federal prosecutors and the state inspector general’s office have since begun investigations into the awards process.

The new bidding round -- the fourth under three separate executive administrations in New York since 2001 –- envisions an operator for the Aqueduct casino being selected within 12 weeks.

The state lottery agency called it "a highly compressed’’ time frame.

The state will release all of the bids once a final bidder is selected. All bidders must put up $1 million to participate, and the money will be refunded to losing bidders.

The RFP also demands that bidders offer at least $300 million for the casino franchise, which would have to be paid soon after selection. It notes that previous bidders have offered up to $370 million for the casino deal.

Paterson has agreed to accept the recommendation of the lottery agency in the coming weeks. After that, the deal would have to be approved by the leaders of the Senate and Assembly. The governor and legislative leaders would have to unanimously agree on a winning bidder.

The deal also includes a $250-million financing plan by the state for the casino construction.

The process also requires "every principal, key individual, or direct investor" to be licensed by the lottery division, which will require passing background checks. For public companies, it means any individual with a share of more than 5% in the company’s stock; for a private company, anyone with a more than 1% share in the firm will be required to be licensed. Principals, officers, and others of private equity firms will also be subjected to the lottery licensing procedure.

The RFP calls for a mandatory bidders’ conference on June 8, followed by vendor proposals due on June 29. A final decision is expected Aug. 3.

In the past, bidders have said it would take about a year to construct the casino, though some have said they could build temporary or partial facilities within about six months.