NY Senator: Upfront Money Not There

Involves payment for Aqueduct slot machines.

Officials in New York recognize they will not be getting the upfront payment money for the Aqueduct casino franchise they had been expecting before the economy turned sour, according to the head of the Senate’s racing committee.

“That’s the reality. The money is not there,” Sen. Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat, said Aug. 6.

“But the name of the game is to get the shovels in the ground, get the place built, jobs, revenue. That’s the direction we’re going,” he added.

Adams, who took over the racing committee earlier this year after Democrats won control of the state Senate, said all sides — Gov. David Paterson and legislative negotiators are pushing for a decision by Labor Day. Sources in recent weeks have been saying a decision is not likely until after the end of the Saratoga meet.

The state last year awarded the casino deal, complete with 4,500 slots in what would be the only legally operating casino in New York City, to Delaware North. But the company this year said it could not immediately come up with the $370 million up-front payment it offered when it won the deal. Gov. David Paterson then re-bid the contract, and six entities are now vying for it.

The highest up-front offers in the new round of bidding comes in only at $150 million. The state has budgeted $145 million in Aqueduct franchise revenues in its 2010 budget.

“We tried twice,” Adams said of the contract awarded last year and an earlier effort by MGM Mirage that ended with the Las Vegas company pulling the plug after years of delays by state officials and the New York Racing Association. “Bad moves. Now, we’re going to make sure people are vetted. We’ve got to do this by Labor Day, and I think we’re on track to do that,” Adams added.

“People think we’re dragging our feet a little bit, but we’re not,” he said.

Adams said the governor’s office and legislative negotiators are jointly working on some aspects of the bidding process. The law requires the contract to get the unanimous approval of the governor and leaders of the state Assembly and Senate.

“We’re doing some things jointly so at least we all agree on certain aspects, but ultimately the three of us have to come out with the same decision,” the committee chairman added.

Asked if he has warmed up to any of the bids now being considered, Adams said, “Not really.” But he quickly then singled out three of the bidding entities.

“I think some of the names are impressive. You can’t get away from Steve Wynn. Even SL Green did a great proposal and even the Aqueduct Entertainment Group,” Adams said. “So, you’ve got some good guys out there. We’d rather have too many great proposals than not any great proposals to pick from.”

Wynn, the Las Vegas casino executive, has submitted a bid with several partners. SL Green has a bid in with Hard Rock Entertainment, among others. And Aqueduct Entertainment Group includes The Navegante Group, a Las Vegas casino company, along with Turner Construction and others, including a development group with ties to Rev. Floyd Flake, a former congressman and political mentor to Senate President Malcolm Smith, the Queens Democrat who must sign off on the deal with Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.