by Paul Post
Three groups seeking the contract to run Aqueduct Racetrack’s racino are scheduled to make presentations to representatives of the New York state government today, in Albany, New York.
Aqueduct is slated to get video lottery terminal facility that will house 4,500 VLTs. The machines are expected to generate more than $450-million annually, boosting horsemen’s purses and breeding programs while allowing New York Racing Association to make much-needed capital improvements at its three tracks—Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course.
The racino will take 12 to 14 months to construct, meaning it could open during the third or fourth quarter of 2009.
“The franchise will be awarded by joint agreement of the governor, the majority leader of the Senate (Joseph L. Bruno, R-Brunswick) and speaker of the Assembly (Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan),” said Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Governor David Paterson. “The governor’s office and representatives of the majority leader and speaker expect to evaluate these proposals over the next two weeks and award the franchise once the review has been completed and an agreement among the parties has been reached.”
The bidders are Capital Play Inc. and its partners, Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino, Extell Development and Plainfield Asset Management; New York-based SL Green Realty Trust, partnered with Hard Rock, which hopes to open a Hard Rock Aqueduct; and Saratoga Harness Racing Inc. and its partner, Delaware North Companies. Delaware North currently owns Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, an upstate New York Thoroughbred track.
Originally, the state put out a request for proposals that gave groups a chance to bid on both racing and gaming. Three organizations, including Capital Play, challenged NYRA, but on February 13 lawmakers gave NYRA a new 25-year racing franchise and pledged to name a gaming operator shortly afterward.
Friday marked the deadline for groups to submit bids for the gaming contract.
Capital Play’s gaming partner, Mohegan Sun, is one of the Northeast’s most profitable casinos and the group is pursuing gaming projects in other states such as an $800-million casino at a Kenosha, Wisconsin, dog track. It also wants to build a casino near Boston and has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars on slot machines at Pennsylvania harness track Pocono Downs.
Hard Rock’s flagship casinos are in Tampa and Hollywood, Florida. Hard Rock hotels/casinos are located in Las Vegas, Chicago, San Diego, Orlando, Florida, and Biloxi, Mississippi, along with Pattaya and Bali. From 2009 to ’11 it plans to open hotel and casino projects in Macau, Penang, Palm Springs, Atlanta, Panama, and Dubai. Its partner, SL Green, is New York City’s largest office landlord.
Saratoga Harness Racing owns Saratoga Gaming & Raceway in Saratoga Springs, New York. Delaware North manages the VLTs there and at several other harness racing and dog tracks in New York, West Virginia, and Florida.