Info On Aqueduct Casino Bidders Revealed

Information on bidders trying to win the potentially lucrative Aqueduct casino project is slowly being revealed following seven offers being submitted to the state of New York May 8.

The members of one mystery group--Aqueduct Entertainment Group--was revealed May 11, at least partly, anyway.

The group’s partners include Navegante Group, a Las Vegas casino management company, and Green Star Services, which is serving as the developer of the proposed project, sources briefed on the proposal said. Green Star is a component of WDF Inc., a New York City construction contracting firm whose projects have included the Time Warner building, Lincoln Center and Yankee Stadium.

Larry J. Woolf, chairman of Navegante Group, declined comment, saying the various players in the bidding group were preparing for a conference call to devise a strategy for public relations and other efforts. Navegante Gaming’s projects include the Casino Fandango in Carson City, Nev., and the Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Woolf’s four decades in the casino industry includes a stint as chairman of MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.

One source said Rev. Floyd Flake, who is the political mentor and current pastor of Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat, is also somehow involved with the bidding group, as is Empowerment Development Corp.

Another involved, according to the governor’s office, is Siemans, though Paterson spokesmen could not say if it was the German conglomerate that industry sources say has had a small part of its business engaged in hotel and gaming financing. A source close to the bidders said the German company is involved in the bid.

Another company listed as an “affiliate’’ of the Aqueduct Entertainment Group is The Darman Group, which lists offices in Queens and Brooklyn. It has been involved as consultants in several high-profile real estate dealings in New York City.

A 2006 New York Daily News article said the company also has past ties to Smith, the Senate leader. It said the company was first incorporated as Smith Darman Inc. in 1999 before the lawmaker later broke off from the company. Officials with Darman did not return calls for comment.

The governor’s office also lists an entity known as PS&S, though it would provide no information on the group. A source close to the bidders said PS&S is an architectural and engineering company that has done work in Atlantic City and New York City. A Paterson official said Richard Mays is listed as chairman of the Aqueduct Entertainment Group.

So goes the latest round of bidding for the long-stalled Aqueduct casino, which was first approved for a sprawling gambling hall back in 2001. The latest round comes after Delaware North, which was awarded the casino deal last year with a $370-million bid, was unable to come up with the cash in a timely way for the state.

The Paterson administration has refused to release any details on offers from any of the bidders.

Seven bidders met a May 8 deadline to run the casino. Besides Aqueduct Entertainment Group, the bidders are Delaware North and its partners, Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, the Peebles Corp., and McKissack & McKissack; Penn National Gaming; a group led by Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn; SL Green, a Manhattan real estate company, and its partners, including Hard Rock Entertainment.

Peebles, the Delaware North partner, has also submitted a separate bid, while Mohegan Sun offered no money but said it would run the casino if the state built it.