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Aqueduct Casino Decision Forthcoming

A decision on the operator of a VLT casino at Aqueduct is forthcoming.

Gov. David Paterson hinted that selection of an Aqueduct video lottery terminal casino operator could come as early as Oct. 1, but sources indicated it could take a little while longer.

In an appearance in Rochester Sept. 30, Paterson was asked by a reporter for an update on the long-stalled casino project, which was first approved by the state in 2001. The governor said he would be speaking with the leaders of the Assembly and Senate Oct. 1 on the issue.

He said the state lottery division and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board have been asked to look at the proposals to see which have “structural defects."

“It may eliminate the number of six applicants who are trying to get that contract, and after that we will choose from who is left. That could happen as soon as tomorrow," Paterson said Sept. 30.

Sources close to Paterson said they don't expect a decision Oct. 1. But officials indicated the process is now on a fast track to betresolved months after a decision was expected.

Officials said negotiators had tentatively narrowed the list to groups led by Manhattan real estate developer SL Green, Las Vegas casino executive Steve Wynn, and Buffalo, N.Y.-based Delaware North.

One source in the state capital said state officials have added Penn National Gaming Inc. to the three entities they identified as having made a final cut list. A PNGI official told The Blood-Horse the company's bid offered the greatest upfront payment to the state--$250 million--of all the bidders, and that it had the cash in the bank to more than make that payment.

The Aqueduct racino has seen numerous false starts over the years, with would-be developers dropping in and out through various legal and financial controversies. The state has estimated it is losing $1 million a day in revenue-sharing proceeds from the casino for every day the facility is not open.

The casino will be home to 4,500 VLTs and would be the only legally operating casino in New York City, posing competition for casinos in both Atlantic City, N.J., and Connecticut. The selection of a casino operator must be made unanimously by the governor and the heads of the Senate and Assembly.