The outspoken leader of Capital Play, one of the entities vying for the big Aqueduct video lottery casino deal, is stepping down.
Karl O’Farrell, the founder and president of Australia-based Capital Play, is resigning his post July 10, officials said. The move is said to be voluntary.
The resignation comes as the New York Lottery Commission has been conducting background checks of the companies and individuals seeking the lucrative Aqueduct VLT casino project.
Capital Play officials said the O’Farrell decision will have no impact on the company’s bid. Replacing O’Farrell as Capital Play president will be Mitchell Grossinger Etess, chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, which is the gaming partner in the bid with Capital Play for the Aqueduct deal. Extell is the group’s development partner, while Plainfield Asset Management is its financial partner.
O’Farrell has not returned calls placed to his cell phone and company headquarters in two days.
Hank Sheinkopf, a Capital Play spokesman, said O’Farrell has been licensed by government regulators in other jurisdictions where the company does business. But he said additional documents were needed from locations around the world in order to complete the Lottery Division’s background review of O’Farrell. He noted O’Farrell is the only foreign national among the three bidding groups.
“Carl is doing this to expedite the Lottery Division’s ability to reach closure and not hold up the process,’’ Sheinkopf said.
O’Farrell had gone through a vetting process last year by the state Inspector General’s office when Capital Play was among the bidders for the state’s Thoroughbred franchise, which was awarded to the New York Racing Association.
It was not immediately clear what additional information the state might be seeking from O’Farrell that would hold up the casino decision. Officials with Gov. David Paterson, whose office is running the Aqueduct casino discussions, have declined comment over the past two days.
Sheinkopf said O’Farrell will remain with Capital Play, serving as its community and government relations executive. He said O’Farrell is not withdrawing his name from the Lottery Division’s application process.
The change in leadership at Capital Play comes at a crucial time, and it is uncertain whether the move helps or hurts its chances to run the casino. It has two other competitors: Delaware North, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based company, and a partnership that includes SL Green, a Manhattan real estate company, and Hard Rock Entertainment, which is owned by the Seminole Indian tribe in Florida.
The state is losing more than $1 million a day for every day the Aqueduct casino is not operating. It will take almost a year, depending on which bidder is selected, to get a permanent casino up and running.
The casino will feature 4,500 video gaming devices among a range of amenities, and is expected to be worth millions of additional dollars for purses, breeding funds, and the state of New York.
O'Farrell has been the face of Capital Play since it emerged on the scene in New York a few years ago. Besides feverishly pushing his company's bid with lawmakers and reporters, O'Farrell also took a take-no-prisoners style during the Thoroughbred franchise deliberations last year, and he regularly lashed out at NYRA as being incapable to run the franchise again.