2010-08-20 / Top Stories

VLTs, Electronic Games Good Bet At Aqueduct

By Howard Schwach

All of the politicians who needed to approve the plan to build the Aqueduct Racino have thrown their chips on the table and Genting New York will begin construction at the aging Ozone Park racetrack within the next few months. Last week, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined State Senate officials in giving approval to the Malaysian gambling giant to begin construction on the facility, slated to have thousands of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) up and running within the next year.

Lottery officials are saying, however, that there is a joker in the deck.

Insiders say that the new Racino will have more than just video slot machines. The State Lottery Commission is ready to roll out electronic versions of roulette and baccarat next month in a Racino in upstate Saratoga Springs, published reports say.

The new games will also be introduced later at the state’s other Racinos - including Aqueduct.

Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the Malaysia-based company picked to build and operate the Aqueduct Racino, told Daily News Albany reporter Kenneth Lovett that electronic table games will be part of the mix when the Aqueduct Racino opens early next year, “subject to Lottery’s approval.”

The new games “are common in all casinos, and we welcome them into the mix as they will provide variety and will help compete with casinos in other states,” Friedman told Lovett. The New York State Constitution prohibits casino table games, but lottery officials insist electronic versions are legal because they are considered games of chance run off the agency’s computer

system and similar to other games already offered.

Lottery division spokeswoman Jennifer Givner said the idea is to offer more choices for customers. The video slots tend to attract an older clientele. Games like baccarat and roulette may lure younger players, Givner said.

If the new games are successful, other electronic games like blackjack could be introduced down the road.

The Aqueduct Racino is allowed a maximum of 4,525 video lottery terminals. The table games would count toward that cap.

Some politicians, however, believe that the electronic games planned for the Racino are no different from the table games at the Atlantic City and Connecticut casinos, banned in New York State.

State Senator Martin Padvan has asked the lottery division to put a hold on the plan until it can be studied by the legislature. Lottery officials, however, plan to move ahead with plans to open the Aqueduct Racino with Video Lottery Terminals and later to move to the other electronic games.

“There already have been court decisions on the question [of electronic games],” Givner said. “We will move forward.”

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