Aqueduct Casino Will Help Ease N.Y. Deficit

Gov. David Paterson said process of selecting a bidder is nearing the end.

New York officials have a growing urgency to resolve the long-delayed Aqueduct casino project: a ballooning deficit.

Gov. David Paterson today unveiled a series of measures to erase a $3-billion deficit in the state’s current fiscal year. Besides all the cuts being proposed, Paterson’s plan counts on at least $200 million from the winning Aqueduct casino bidder in an up-front franchise fee payment to the state. The payment, to help the state’s current fiscal year deficit, would have to come before March 31.

Paterson said the $200 million level is “about’’ the amount the state expects from whichever entity wins the bidding war. There are a half-dozen groups vying to become the operator of the only legal casino in New York City.

The governor did not signal which group he favors, though he again said the process is nearing an end. “As soon as I can get the (legislative) leaders together, I think we can be at the end of the Aqueduct process,’’ he said Oct. 15.

The law permitting the Aqueduct casino requires a bidder be unanimously selected by Paterson and the two leaders of the Senate and Assembly.

The biggest up-front payment offer to the cash-starved state has come from Penn National Gaming, which said it will pay $250 million immediately for the rights to the casino and the 4,500 slot machines it is permitted to contain.

The other bidders still believed to be leading in the bidding war have offered various amounts, such as $275 million by the group led by real estate developer SL Green, but those payments are spread out over different time periods.

Others believed to be among the finalists are Las Vegas casino executive Steve Wynn and Buffalo-based Delaware North, though Delaware North has an uphill climb because it won the Aqueduct project last year but had to back out after financing became an issue during the recession.