2008-10-31 / Business News

'Racino'A Done Deal, Spade Soon In Ground

By Howard Schwach

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. The first spade will hit the ground early next year in the constrution of a gambling "racino" that will bring 4,500 video game machines and several new restaurants to Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park.

The development of the multi-million dollar, 330,000-square-foot facility is a done deal now that Governor David Paterson and Republican Leader Dean Skelos have agreed to move ahead with the project.

Officials of Delaware North, the upstate developer chosen by the governor to implement the plan, say that groundbreaking will take place early in 2009 and that the gambling portion of the complex will most likely be ready in about a year.

The racino will also boast 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 will eventually 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.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican from Long Island, has balked at Paterson's decidsion, 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 finally cut a deal with Paterson last week that would allow the plan to move forward.

A spokesperson for the developer said that the gambling racino will take 12-14 months to build.

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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