MGM Mirage Ready for Aqueduct VLT Project

A top Las Vegas casino company is assuring New York officials it's anxious to get started with construction of a video lottery terminal casino at Aqueduct.

In a letter to the New York Non-Profit Racing Association Oversight Board, MGM Mirage states it's "ready, willing and able to go forward with plans to construct and manage" the Aqueduct racino. Earlier this week, Carole Stone, head of the oversight panel, told NYRA president Charles Hayward that MGM Mirage had to provide further assurance it's still prepared to handle the long-stalled project.

The oversight board and the state Lottery Division have not yet approved two final documents--one would place other outstanding debt behind MGM Mirage's $180-million loan to NYRA for future repayments--MGM has insisted are required before construction can begin at Aqueduct.

Within a day of the oversight board's meeting, Gary Jacobs, executive vice president and general counsel for MGM Mirage, wrote Stone urging the board to "expeditiously" approve a debt subordination plan submitted to the panel in June.

"For the past four years, MGM has been unwavering in its commitment to the Aqueduct VLT project and has diligently sought to obtain appropriate regulatory approvals relating thereto," Jacobs wrote to Stone.

Jacobs further noted MGM Mirage has "substantial rights and remedies" in its VLT contract with NYRA that will be binding on whoever holds the next franchise to operate racing at Aqueduct. NYRA's franchise to run racing at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga expires at the end of 2007; MGM Mirage and NYRA maintain the casino company's VLT contract extends beyond that period even if NYRA loses the franchise.

The letter from MGM Mirage came after NYRA officials said the non-profit entity could go broke by the end of the year unless the oversight board releases $19 million in state loans that were approved by the legislature; $11 million has already gone to NYRA from the state from a $30-million bailout package, which must be repaid from future VLT revenues. Stone had said the board probably couldn't release those funds until MGM Mirage provided additional evidence it's ready to work on the Aqueduct VLT project.