Still No Decision on Aqueduct Casino Operator

The governor of New York suggested Aug. 26 there are no guarantees a decision will be made soon in the selection of a developer for the long-stalled Aqueduct casino project.

Though bidders were originally told to expect a decision by Aug. 1, it could be a couple more weeks before a developer is tapped, Gov. David Paterson told reporters.

But even that sketchy timetable is based entirely on the assumption that the Democratic leaders of the two legislative houses will agree with the Democratic governor on an operator to run the facility for the next few decades. Given the not-always-so-warm relations between Paterson and the two leaders -- Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate President Malcolm Smith -- such a timetable for action could end up being optimistic.

"I’d like to get this done as soon as possible,’’ Paterson said.

The state is losing at least $1 million a day in revenue sharing proceeds it expects to make from the 4,500 slots it has permitted to operate at Aqueduct. There are six bidding groups – composed of elite gambling corporations, real estate developers, financiers and politically connected individuals – vying for the lucrative casino rights. Several recently upped their cash offers to the state, which first authorized the installation of VLTs at Aqueduct shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Paterson recalled that a year ago July he made a decision to select Delaware North to run the facility. But a political dispute with then Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos delayed an announcement until October. That, he said, was after the state’s economic downturn accelerated that helped lead to Delaware North’s inability to raise the $370 million it promised the state in up-front money for the casino rights. Delaware North is again bidding for the project. Democrats have since taken control of the state Senate.

"I would hope that we would have this done in the next couple weeks, but it depends on whether the (legislative) leaders agree with me,’’ Paterson said.

By law, the project must be signed off by the governor, Assembly speaker and the Senate president.

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