Thursday, October 2, 2008
Aqueduct VLT Decision Coming Soon
By Samantha Geary
The question of who will operate the 4,500 Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) at Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park is coming closer to being answered. Leaders in Albany are meeting in Manhattan on Friday morning and it is understood that the VLT decision will be on the agenda.
Local elected and community leaders are anxious that the State choose the best option for the community and not just make a short term decision to take more money up-front at the expense of the local community for the next 30-40 years.
The three bidders are Capital Play, a combination of experienced racing operators and the Connecticut based Mohegan Sun, SL Green, a Manhattan-based REIT and Delaware North, a Buffalo-based company which operates the concessions at ball-parks around the country.
Of the three bidders, Capital Play has been the most active in the community. Several months ago they even joined the Queens Chamber of Commerce and are active members.
They have presented a comprehensive plan for a “world-class entertainment destination venue” which will be an economic generator for Southwest Queens and a creator of several thousand jobs. They have committed to creating those jobs for local residents and to being an active partner in the community.
Capital Play’s proposal is for a phased construction which would include a world-class casino branded with the Mohegan Sun name, name-brand restaurants, a first-class food court, shopping and entertainment venues and a hotel with convention space. Mohegan Sun has presented very strong testimonial support from local business and governments in both Connecticut and at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania as well as a proven record of good treatment of its employees.
SL Green has presented a plan for the Hard Rock Casino at Aqueduct. While it is rumored that they copied the Capital Play plan, according to some in the local community, their plan is not nearly as well thought out as that of Capital Play.
Delaware North has presented a plan for a much more down market VLT facility which is rumored to be dependent on the local community playing the slots. In comparison, Capital Play (and SL Green to a lesser extent) plans to attract people passing through nearby JFK Airport and from the greater New York and Long Island communities by creating a world class destination and entertainment venue at Aqueduct.
In what has been interpreted as a cynical move, Delaware North has offered more money as an up-front license fee to the State but as a result will spend substantially less in Queens in developing its plan for the VLT’s.
Local community and elected officials are said to be very unhappy with the Delaware North plan which is by far the least acceptable of the three bidders. It is also expected that the Delaware North “slots in a box” plan will create more gambling and addiction problems in the local community.