2008-10-24 / Community

Coming Soon To Aqueduct: A Gambling 'Racino'

By Howard Schwach

The complex would feature a 330,000-square-foot racino with 4,500 video slot machines. The complex would feature a 330,000-square-foot racino with 4,500 video slot machines. Rockaway gamblers will soon be able to put away their traveling shoes and cancel their trips to Atlantic City and Connecticut if Governor David Paterson has his way. On Monday, Paterson chose an upstate developer to build a Las Vegas style video slot machine casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, only 20 minutes from the peninsula.

The 330,000-square-foot "racino" will boast 4,500 video slot machines, a 25,000-square-foot buffet with seating for 600 diners, a steakhouse and both Italian and Asian restaurants.

In addition, plans call for a 3,000- seat area that could host concerts and sports events.

The facility is expected to draw 20,000 people a day and generate $1 million a day in revenue for the state.

Paterson chose a Buffalo firm, Delaware North to develop the new gambling facility over two other would-be developers. Under the plan, the developer would pay the state $370 million up front, considerably more than either of the other two bidders - Capital Play and SL Green.

An artist's rendering of what the new gambling complex at Aqueduct racetrack would look like when completed. An artist's rendering of what the new gambling complex at Aqueduct racetrack would look like when completed. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican from Long Island, has balked at Paterson's decision, however, saying that Delaware North would provide more money up front, but had no future plans for the site beyond the video slot machine venue, while the other two had more grandiose plans for the entire Aqueduct site.

Officials at Delaware North told reporters, however, that it had plans to build a "world class, four star conference center and hotel facility" at Aqueduct.

Skelos and the Republican majority in the Senate are holding up the plan, something that will cost the state $1 million a day, Malcolm Smith, the Democratic Senate Minority Leader said on Wednesday.

The Democrats want the plan approved as soon as possible so that the state can draw much-needed revenue from the gambling complex.

Officials say that once the plans are approved it should take 12 to 14 months to build the racino facility.

The hotel, conference center and perhaps a regional shopping mall would come five years later, officials said.

"The idea is to take Aqueduct and make it a world-class destination attraction," said Donahue Pebbles, CEO of the Pebbles Corporation, the largest African-American real estate development company in the United States, specializing in urban development, a firm hired by Delaware North to plan the complex.

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