NYRA's Barry Schwartz, optimistic that VLT program will get back on track.

NYRA's Barry Schwartz, optimistic that VLT program will get back on track.

Barbara D. Livingston

NYRA Puts VLT Plans on Hold; MGM Mirage Has Concerns

A construction program that began 2 1/2 weeks ago to install video lottery terminals at Aqueduct racetrack in New York has temporarily been halted because of the United States attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York's ongoing criminal investigation of the New York Racing Association. The investigation stems from guilty pleas for personal income tax fraud from 15 former NYRA pari-mutuel clerks.

The investigation prompted MGM Mirage, which earlier this year entered into a business relationship with NYRA to develop and manage the VLT operation at Aqueduct, to suspend construction as a precautionary measure. MGM management felt it was necessary because an indictment would prohibit the company from going forward with the NYRA agreement.

VLTs at Aqueduct were projected to generate $400 million for the state's education fund in its first year of operation. NYRA had hoped to have the machines operating by Jan. 1, 2004.

"Obviously, I am disappointed that recent developments have put hundreds of millions of dollars for education, purses, and breeders awards in serious jeopardy," said Barry K. Schwartz, chairman and CEO of NYRA. "Nevertheless, I remain optimistic that the legal matters will be sorted out and the VLT project will get back on track. It's just too important to too many people to turn out any other way."