Aqueduct Casino Work to Begin Soon
Photo: Adam Coglianese
Aqueduct Race Track

"All along, I’ve said that securing this deal and moving ahead with the project at Aqueduct is critical for the future of New York," Gov. David Paterson said in a statement. "The state, in partnership with Genting, has the opportunity to create jobs for the community and to revitalize this area. After almost a decade of delay, this project is finally becoming a reality and all New Yorkers will benefit."

Genting New York officials, after turning over $380 million in licensing fee payments to the state, said they are prepared to quickly start construction on the Aqueduct casino project.

"We’re planning to make this a very impressive entertainment destination for all of New York," said Michael Speller, president of the company that is owned by a Malaysian-based casino corporation.

Speller said construction will begin "almost right away" after final environmental permits are issued for the project, which will feature 4,500 slot machines. He said 1,600 of those devices will be turned on by sometime next spring, with the rest up and running six months later. The full project development, which will include restaurants and entertainment space, will come within 18 months later.

"And, of course, we will still have horse racing at Aqueduct," Speller said.

The Genting executive discussed his company’s plans for the casino at an event Sept. 28 at the state Lottery Division’s headquarters in upstate Schenectady in which a ceremonial $380 million check -- the amount it offered the state in an upfront licensing fee for the 30 year franchise -- was presented. The actual money flowed to the state’s bank account last Friday -- five days before the deadline.

Gordon Medenica, the director of the lottery, which oversees racetrack casinos in New York, called it a "long and tortuous process" that began in 2001 with the approval by the Legislature of the Aqueduct casino. But a series of political, legal and financial tussles delayed final action on the casino. Gov. David Paterson, who signed off on Genting along with legislative leaders, is the third governor since the project was first approved.

Medenica said the Genting plan, worth at least an estimated $300 million in annual payments, will "serve and protect" horse racing in the state. He said the industry in New York will be getting about 16% of the total net win at the casino in the form of revenue-sharing payments to the New York Racing Association, horsemen and for things like breeding awards.

Genting has also taken over the loan -- worth up to $25 million -- issued by the state this year to NYRA, which had been teetering on the edge of financial insolvency at the time of the bailout. Speller estimated the casino will create 1,300 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs.

"This is a company that is truly a world class, experienced, top-notch professional gaming company," Medenica said of Genting’s parent, which operates casinos in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and the United Kingdom. This is the company’s first venture in the United States.

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