Seven Groups Eye Aqueduct VLTs; Franchise Report Due

Seven entities have expressed interest in running a future video lottery terminal casino at Aqueduct, including several Indian-owned gambling companies, the Spitzer administration said Oct. 15.

Missing from the group are some notables, including Excelsior Racing Associates and Empire Racing Associates, two groups that bid for the franchise to operate three Thoroughbred racetracks in New York.

Groups expressing interest by the Oct. 15 deadline are Delaware North Cos. and Saratoga Gaming and Raceway; Foxwoods Development Co.; Greenwood Racing of Pennsylvania; Mohegan Sun, with the support of Capital Play; Seneca Gaming Corp.; Penn. National Gaming; and the Shinnecock Indian Nation and Gateway Casino Resorts.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer recently recommended splitting the franchise that runs Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga into separate racing and casino components. He recommended the New York Racing Association continue operating the racing side of the franchise for another 30 years, a plan that has gotten a cool reception in the state Senate.

The Aqueduct VLT casino has been stalled since it was approved by the state in 2001. NYRA originally tapped MGM Mirage as its partner in a deal that has since fallen apart.

Spitzer has said he will consult with NYRA on a new VLT casino operator that would come from a list of entities submitting an interest in the casino.

Two models are under consideration by the administration. The first would have the state own and finance the facility, with a contractor being selected to run the casino for a set fee or share in profits. The second idea would see the operator develop and finance the casino and keep the VLT revenue after certain mandatory amounts are shared with the state.

The state legislature must approve any deal. The Senate Oct. 16 will be releasing its ideas for the franchise’s future. The Blood-Horse previously reported the Senate was looking to create a new state authority that would have control over choosing operators for the racing and casino components of the franchise.

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