by Paul Post
A report on Belmont Park’s economic development potential has been forwarded to New York Governor David Paterson, who is reviewing the study’s recommendations.
The state assumed ownership of the New York Racing Association’s three tracks—Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course—last fall when it awarded NYRA a new 25-year franchise agreement to run the tracks.
Paterson then directed a task force to make recommendations about how to maximize the state’s new assets. Specifically, he wants to find ways to raise revenue because New York is facing a deficit projected at up to $15-billion in the next fiscal year.
The Belmont task force was co-chaired by New York State Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini and Marisa Lago, president and chief executive officer of Empire State Development Corporation.
“The reason I was involved was to ensure that racing’s interests are protected,” Sabini said.
The report was delivered to Paterson in late December, Sabini said.
Paterson focused heavily on the economy and how New York should respond to its fiscal crisis in Wednesday’s annual “State of the State Address” to the legislature. He made no specific references to Belmont Park but briefly mentioned that the state should partner with private interests in promoting economic development.
Paterson, a Democrat, has stated that he would like Belmont to have video lottery terminals as have been approved for Aqueduct, where groundbreaking on a racino is expected this spring.
New Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), who was sworn in on Wednesday, also supports the idea but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has strongly opposed Belmont gaming.
Democrats control the state’s executive branch and both legislative houses for the first time in more than 40 years.
Belmont’s property encompasses 445 acres. The report focuses on two separate parcels of 22 and eight acres, respectively, which have the greatest development potential for retail, entertainment, or hotel construction.