by Paul Post
Firms seeking the contract to run Aqueduct Race Track’s proposed racino must submit bids to the governor’s office by 5 p.m. today.
The gaming facility is slated to have 4,500 video lottery terminals which, among other things, would generate much-needed revenue for Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park and Aqueduct.
Two firms involved in a contentious lawsuit — SL Green Realty Trust and Delaware North Companies — have confirmed they’re submitting bids. Mohegan Sun casino of Connecticut is also expected to bid, but company officials could not be reached for comment.
"The governor would like to see an experienced gaming operator selected as soon as possible," spokesman Morgan Hook said. "The selection must be made by three-way agreement with the governor, (Assembly) speaker and (Senate) majority leader. That will require negotiation."
There is no established deadline for naming a VLT operator. The contract would be for 30 years with the possibility of a 10-year extension based on the operator’s performance.
Last Oct. 10, Paterson named Buffalo-based Delaware North, whose partners include Saratoga Harness Racing Inc., to run Aqueduct’s VLTs. The firm pledged $370 million to the state, but later announced that it couldn’t secure needed financing in time to meet a March 31 deadline.
"We remain committed to bringing a world-class VLT facility to Aqueduct," Delaware North President William Bissett said. "The re-bid allows the state and the bidders to address the issues of timing and the changing economic climate."
Previously, SL Green and Delaware North were partners in a broad coalition of racing, gaming and development entities called Empire Racing Associates that challenged New York Racing Association for the state’s racing franchise. NYRA ultimately prevailed and won a new 25-year contract in early 2008.
Now, SL Green and Delaware North are competing against each other for the Aqueduct gaming contract. Last month, SL Green sued Delaware North, saying that it violated terms of a confidentiality agreement from their prior partnership. The suit charges "breach of contract," claiming that Delaware North used proprietary information to gain an advantage in the Aqueduct bidding.
"It is pending," SL Green spokesman Rick Matthews said. "Delaware North has not responded yet."
He said SL Green/Hard Rock is bidding on the Aqueduct contract.
"The new bid will be very compelling and like SL Green’s previous plan, which would have resulted in a revenue-producing facility up and running by now, it will be well-capitalized," he said.
Details of a proposed gaming agreement may be viewed at the Web site: www.ny.gov/governor/aqueduct