Thursday, August 5, 2010

State Lottery Approves Genting's Aqueduct Proposal

Project Now Awaiting OK from Governor and Senate

By Eric Yun

After ten years, it appears that Aqueduct racetrack will finally receive a vendor to operate 4,500 video lottery terminals (VLTs). New York Lottery strongly recommended approval of lone remaining bidder Genting New York to Governor David Paterson on Tuesday.

Genting New York is a subsidiary of Genting Malyasia Berhad, which owns and operates some of Asia’s largest casinos and resorts. They just finished building a $4.4 billion Universal Studios resort and casino in Singapore.

“It is with genuine enthusiasm that the Committee unanimously recommends Genting New York as the winning vendor,” wrote Lottery Director Gordon Medenica to Governor Paterson. “Our strong recommendation, based on the merits of the proposal, was vastly reinforced by Genting’s financial offer of $380 million as an upfront licensing fee.”

In a statement, Genting New York said, “We hope the lottery’s recommendation will be endorsed by the Legislature so we can immediately get to work creating jobs, preventing layoffs and delivering more than $15 billion in economic benefits to New York over the next 30 years.”

New York Lottery was able to move forward with their recommendation when State Supreme Court Justice Barry Kramer dismissed the lawsuit from Aqueduct Entertainment Company (AEC) last Thursday.

AEC (formerly Aqueduct Entertainment Group) sued the state’s lottery division in June to reclaim the “racino” project at Aqueduct racetrack. The company was awarded the bid in January, but the state disqualified them after questions about the group and the bidding procedure. A temporary restraining order was placed, which prevented the state to award the bid to another company.

Representatives from Aqueduct Entertainment Company had unsuccessfully claimed the state changed rules midway through the process, and disqualified their company in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner. The judge saw things differently. Justice Kramer said the January selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Company was not legally binding because the company was still in the vetting process at the time.

With the Lottery’s recommendation, it is now up to Governor Paterson and the State Assembly and Senate to approve the bid.

There is strong support from local elected officials to move forward and approve Genting New York. Genting officials impressed many when they unveiled their plans to the community at a public hearing last month.

“I am very pleased that NY Lottery has unanimously selected a winning vendor for Aqueduct,” said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park). “This has been a long and drawn out process for the community, but I am happy that it is finally going to reach the finish line.”

Local State Assembly Members and Senators are urging their fellow members to move quickly to approve Genting’s proposal.
“I have already spoken with Speaker Silver and now strongly urge Governor Paterson and Senate Democratic Conference Leader Sampson to move quickly to approve Genting’s proposal,” said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park). “Be assured, I will demand that community concerns and input continue to be included in all future planning. We must work diligently to bring the jobs, employment opportunities and economic stimulus that Aqueduct will provide to our local community and economy,” she added.

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) is excited about the possibility of additional jobs for his constituents. “Selecting a bidder for Aqueduct is an important step towards alleviating our high unemployment rate and our shortfall in state revenue,” Miller said. “I feel that Genting will prove to be a good choice because they are responsive to community concerns. They will make efforts to hire locally, and will cover their own security.”

If Genting is approved, it would provide more than 1,300 jobs to the community through the long-awaited revitalization of the Ozone Park racetrack. Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) is happy not only about the installation of VLTs, but the fact New York Racing Association will be able to continue horse races at the track.
“I look forward to working with Genting and the community as we move forward with building Queens’ newest tourist at- traction that will provide 1,300 construction and post-construction jobs, financial benefits to the state, and long-term benefits to my constituents,” Addabbo said. “I will also continue to stress those issues that need to be addressed by Genting, particu- larly traffic patterns and public safety.”

For many in the community, New York Lottery’s recommendation of Genting was met with optimism. But after the problems in previous rounds of bidding, including the disqualification of Aqueduct Entertainment Company and the previous failure of Delaware North to generate the promised upfront funds, the enthusiasm is tempered.

“Only when the ink is dry, I’ll believe it,” said Betty Braton, chairperson of Community Board 10. She looks forward to future interactions with Genting, and disseminating information to the community as she receives it. “It’s time to get this done,” she said.

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