2009-03-13 / Top Stories

Aqueduct Gambling Deal Dead And Gone

By Howard Schwach

An artist's rendering of the planned video slot machine site at Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park. An artist's rendering of the planned video slot machine site at Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park. Those Rockaway residents who regularly travel to Atlantic City or Connecticut to meet their gambling needs and who hoped to soon have a gambling venue in Ozone Park will now have to wait for the state to come up with a new plan and rebid the gambling venue proposal.

A deal for a glitzy, Las Vegas-style video slot machine parlor at Aqueduct Race Track collapsed this week under the weight of the current economic crisis, a collapse that might well cost the state a whopping $370 million in expected revenue.

The developer chosen last October by Governor David Paterson amid much fanfare and backslapping, Delaware North of Buffalo, notified the state on Tuesday that it could not meet its commitment to come up with the multimillion dollar up-front fee that was due to the state prior to March 31.

The company cited the deterioration of the credit and equity financial markets as the reason for its default.

A spokesperson for the developer told reporters that the company had asked the state to restructure the deal to give them more time to come up with the money, but that the state refused.

The state will now rebid the proposal, most likely choosing another developer, possibly one with the up-front money on hand.

Several companies bid for the project before Delaware North was finally chosen.

Paterson spokesperson Errol Cockfield told reporters, "We are disappointed that Delaware North couldn't get the funding for the project, but the state is still committed to ensuring that Aqueduct is redeveloped.

He said that the state will soon reopen the process for choosing a new developer for the site.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer said that the state can probably do better now that the present proposal has collapsed.

"Delaware North was never our first choice," said Pheffer. "There were others that not only had a better working relationship with our community, but also had a more fiscally viable project. Delaware North was chosen for their promise to pay $370 million upfront, and they have lost the deal because of their inability to live up to that commitment."

Experts say that the state had been counting not only on the up-front money, but on the expected $250 million in annual revenue from the 1,000 video slot machines and other amenities planned for the site.

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