2010-07-02 / Top Stories

3 In, 3 Out As Racino Hits Home Stretch

By Howard Schwach

Officials hope to make the Aqueduct Racino decision before the end of the summer. Officials hope to make the Aqueduct Racino decision before the end of the summer. Three of the six interested bidders in the latest contest to build and operate an Aqueduct Racino have already dropped out of the race, according to published reports in Crain’s New York Business Weekly and other daily papers.

When the bids were finally submitted to the New York State Lottery Commission on Tuesday afternoon, only Penn National Gaming, Genting New York and S.L. Green were left standing, a one million dollar nonrefundable deposit in hand and ready to go the distance in the fifth generation of bidding for the valuable property.

The winner will have to pony up a $300 million upfront payment to the state as well as a loan to the slumping Off Track-Betting Corporation.

Three other firms that were reportedly in the running backed off at the last minute and did not submit bids.

They are Delaware North, which won the first bidding round early last year, but could not come up with the required front money, Empire Casino Gambling and the Clairvest Group.

“While we still believe in the merits of the development of a gaming facility at Aqueduct Racetrack and the substantial benefits to New York state education, the community and to stakeholders in the racing industry, we have concluded that the VLT vendor procurement structure as proposed makes it impossible for us to submit a conforming proposal,” said William Bissett, president of Delaware North, in a statement. “A highly unusual set of financial conditions, including the non-refundability of down payment and unpredictability of state taxation rates, caused us to reevaluate the project and ultimately decide against participation.”

Delaware North resurfaced last year in a botched round of bidding that was won by Aqueduct Entertainment Group. Earlier this year, however, AEG was denied a gaming license and the state withdrew its support for the group. The process that led up to that selection is still under investigation by the state inspector general’s office.

There was a late report that Torontobased Clairvest, a company that had partnered with AEG in the earlier bidding process, dropped its own bid because it has joined with S.L. Green, which already has Hard Rock Entertainment as a major party.

A final decision will be made by “late summer,” according to a spokesperson for the Lottery Commission.

Under state law, that choice then has to be vetted by both the governor and the leaders of the state legislature.

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