2010-01-29 / Top Stories

Queens Councilmembers Back Peebles/MGM Aqueduct Bid

The three New York City Council representatives of the Southeast Queens Community have weighed into the deadlocked negotiations for the operation of the proposed Video Lottery Terminal at Aqueduct Racetrack. Deputy Majority Leader and Land Use Committee Chairman Leroy Comrie (D-27th District), Civil Service and Labor Committee Chairman James Sanders Jr. (D-31st District) and Economic Development Committee Chairman Thomas White Jr. (D- 28th District) announced that they are in support of the bid submitted by the Peebles/MGM Mirage group. “I have been impressed with many of the presentations that were shown to me,” stated Comrie. “Today I am strongly recommending to Governor Paterson and the Legislative Leadership that the bid led by The Peebles Corporation be selected as the developer of the Aqueduct site and the operator of the Video Lottery Terminal. There are a myriad of reasons why I am recommending this bid, however, what stands out is their track record of quality development throughout the country, their focus on inclusion of minority and women-owned business in the development, their commitment on providing stable economic opportunities for our community, and the integration of the world-renowned brand that MGM Mirage brings to the Aqueduct site. They have also committed to opening up an office in the Southeast Queens community that will be centered on providing jobs within this development.”

Added Sanders, “Over a million dollars a day is believed to be lost from the city’s coffers with the delay in picking a partner for the Aqueduct Video Lottery Terminal. We, the Councilmen of the surrounding communities, cannot sit silent as the unemployment rate in our communities rise. After an extensive interview process, Peebles/ MGM Mirage, followed by S.L. Green seem to be the clear choice for New York City. This is based on how quickly the respondent can start and what is offered to the local communities. We thank all who were interviewed and look forward to working with them on other projects.”

“Despite SL Green’s impressive bid, my colleagues and I decided to endorse the Peebles/MGM Mirage bid due to the partnership’s experience in operating urban casinos throughout the country,” stated White. “Their strong commitment and success in implementing MWBE programs with high rates of participation like the billion dollar City Center project in Las Vegas that provided 200 minority firms with over $700 million in contracts, and our belief that the partnerships long term vision and brand name will ultimately lead to the creation of destination gaming venue that will benefit the residents of Southeast Queens.”

Over the past few months, Governor Paterson and leaders of the New York State Senate and Assembly have been dead-locked on which of the major bidders to choose to operate the Video Lottery Terminal and re-develop the 115- year-old racetrack. This indecision has cost taxpayers upwards of $1 million a day in tax revenue. The horseracing industry is not sustainable nor can we expect any revenue in the future from it. Other opportunities for revenue such as an operation of Video Lottery Terminals are needed to diversify our revenue streams.

Given this indecision, the three City legislators took it upon themselves to host presentations from four of the major bidders to learn more about their project details and make a recommendation to both Paterson and the Senate/- Assembly leadership. On Friday, January 8, Comrie, Sanders and White met with the following in Southeast Queens:

* S.L. Green partnering with Hard Rock Entertainment, BET founder Robert Johnson, Jeff Gural, Dan Tishman, and Och-Ziff.

* Aqueduct Entertainment Group, composed of Jeffrey Levin, GreenStar Services, and Clairvest Group. Non-equity partners include the Navegante Group of Las Vegas, Empower Development and the Darman Group.

* Aqueduct Gaming, LLC, composed of Delaware North, Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, Cheryl McKissack, and Harrah Casinos.

* Peebles/MGM Mirage composed of Donahue Peebles, MGM Mirage, Harbinger Capital Partners, Perini Building and Global Hue.

* Penn National Gaming was extended an invitation but did not respond to requests.

“After facing many months of indecision in Albany over who would ultimately be chosen to construct and operate a Video Lottery Terminal at the Aqueduct Racetrack site,” stated White, “my colleagues and I decided that we must make an effort to speed the process up by meeting with the bidders and making recommendations to the Governor and Legislative leaders that would best meet the needs of our communities who will ultimately bear the benefits or consequences of expanding gaming in Southeast Queens.

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