2010-09-17 / Top Stories

State Watchdogs OK Aqueduct Racino Contract

By Howard Schwach

The two state watchdogs who were tasked with vetting the contract with Genting New York to run a gambling Racino at the aging Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park have now signed off on the project and sent their approvals back to the state’s Lottery Commission.

“After nearly a decade of false starts and broken promises, the VLT contract is done,” said State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. “This is one of the most important vendor contracts New York has ever signed. The VLT contract involves hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a 30-year license that carries the future of New York’s racing industry on its back. My office did this right and we did it expeditiously without sacrificing thoroughness. We took every step to ensure the taxpayers are safeguarded in this contract. It’s New Yorkers’ money; it’s my job to protect it.”

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had signed off on the contract last week.

Governor David Paterson and legislative leaders have already given Genting, a Malaysian company that runs casinos throughout the world, the thumbs up.

The contract will be returned to the State Lottery Division with the Comptroller’s approval today. The approved contract is in effect immediately.

As the Lottery Commission stated in its recommendation letter to Governor Paterson and the legislative branch, “Genting’s proposal was far superior, in concept, scope, detail and execution, as compared to previous rounds of evaluation. Lottery’s strong recommendation is based on the merits of the proposal, which was vastly reinforced by Genting’s financial offer of $380 million as an upfront licensing fee. In addition, Genting is highly sensitive to the community issues, labor requirements and social concerns that a project of such scope encompasses.”

“In addition to the upfront fee, the Aqueduct facility will generate an estimated $300 million a year for Lottery Aid-to-Education statewide,” the lottery spokesperson added. “Locally, Genting’s development will generate 1,300 jobs during the construction phase and 800 jobs in the operation of the facility. The firm has also committed to donate one percent of net profits to the Queens community.”

“The contract with Genting provides a much needed up-front payment of $380 million to the State, and promises the first 1,500 VLTs up and running in approximately nine months. Genting has already begun laying their foundation in the community, by opening offices within the vicinity of Aqueduct Racetrack,” said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. “In addition, they have recognized the importance of supporting the community and have committed to set aside one percent of profits for local community investments.”

“Be assured, I will demand that community concerns and input continue to be included in all future planning. We must work diligently to bring the jobs, employment opportunities and economic stimulus that Aqueduct will provide to our local community and economy. I will be working closely with Genting to ensure a successful project,” Pheffer added.

Genting now needs to deliver its check for $380 million, the promised upfront licensing fee, to the state. Assuming all goes as planned, 1,600 video slot machines will be open by this spring. Genting expects to generate $1.5 million per day in revenue for the state once it has all 4,500 video slot machines in place in about a year.

“Genting Malaysia Berhad is honored to have earned final approval to begin building a new facility at Aqueduct,” said K.T. Lim, chairman of Genting Malaysia Berhad, in a press statement. “We are eager to immediately begin investing, creating jobs, sparking economic activity and bringing New York a one-of-a-kind iconic, entertainment destination.”

This latest, and now officially the final round of bidding to build and operate a Racino in Ozone Park, Queens, has been deemed more transparent and faster than the four previous rounds.

In addition to slots, Genting intends to open a 200-seat high-end Chinese restaurant, a sports bar with a 280- seat lounge, other buffet-style restaurants, and even a water show. The company said it expects to complete the restaurants, food court and 2,200- space parking garage within one year of its contract start.

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