2010-11-12 / Top Stories

Officials Ponder Racino Charges

By Howard Schwach

As state and city officials ponder whether or not to bring charges against several politicians, including State Senator Malcolm Smith, who represents Rockaway, construction has begun on the Video Lottery Terminal Racino at the aging Jamaica racetrack in South Ozone Park.

State, local and federal officials, including Governor David Paterson, recently joined with representatives from Genting New York for a groundbreaking ceremony at the racetrack.

Genting New York recently won the bidding process to run the multi-million dollar facility after more than a decade of fits, starts and charges of political favoritism.

While Paterson attended the event, Senate President Malcolm Smith, Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson and Senate Racing Committee chairman Eric Adams did not, further focusing the spotlight on the trio, more than one of whom are widely expected to face charges of criminality in connection with the Racino deal.

Sampson, as conference leader, selected Aqueduct Entertainment Group, while Smith formally signed the document on behalf of the Senate. Adams was involved in the selection process as well.

All three were heavily criticized in Inspector General Joseph Fisch’s report, issued two weeks ago, on the tainted selection of AEG for the project. AEG ultimately was rejected when the state Lottery ruled it was “unlicenseable,” and Genting New York was chosen for the project after a new bidding process.

According to the Fisch report, Smith was still heavily involved in the selection process and backing AEG’s application, despite the fact that he said that he was recusing himself.

All three Senate leaders attended a victory party at the Albany home of AEG lobbyist and former state Senator Carl Andrews after Paterson named AEG as the winning bidder for the billion dollar Racino deal.

In addition, both Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. were criticized in the report for focusing too much on how the winning bidder would interact with their communities and not enough on the weaknesses in the financial plans and in those investing in the companies involved.

And, while the report was sent to both the state’s attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney for possible charges against Smith and Sampson, no such recommendations were made in relation to Addabbo or Pheffer.

Addabbo, however, took tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the Democratic Senate Committee, some of it allegedly from Racino lobbyists, and refused to return it, sources say.

In addition to 4,500 video lottery terminals, which will include electronic versions of slots, roulette and baccarat, Genting plans to build a 200-seat “high end” restaurant, a 200-seat Chinese restaurant, a “state-of-the-art” sports bar and grill with 280 seats and a food court that would include a variety of fast foods.

The plan also calls for a concert venue.

Mike Spiller, the president of Genting New York, believes the facility will draw short-term visitors who will drop in for a few hours, such as travelers at nearby John F. Kennedy Airport, who face a few hours layover between flights, as well as long-term visitors who will come to gamble and see the shows.

He added that the facility will provide 1,300 construction jobs and, once completed, 800 permanent jobs.

The company president expects the first VLT’s to be up and running before next summer.

The facility will be known as Resort World New York.

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