Delaware North Gets Nod to Develop Queens Racino; Community Groups Peeved

nyra Delaware North Gets Nod to Develop Queens Racino; Community Groups PeevedThis just in: Governor Paterson’s office has finalized the selection of Delaware North to transform the beleaguered Queens Aqueduct into a racino (industry jargon for a destination that’s part-racetrack, part-casino).

"Today our administration will announce the selection of Delaware North to operate Video Lottery Terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack," said Governor Paterson in a statement. "This is a huge victory for the State, and it comes two weeks after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and I recommended this selection. Each day without a deal cost New York about $1 million in revenue. We are pleased that the Senate Republican leadership has finally recognized the significance of this economic development project for the people of New York. This deal will provide a critical revenue stream – especially given the fiscal crisis that is battering our State and nation."

The other two consortiums vying for the crown included SL Green, in partnership with Hard Rock, and Capital Play, with partners Extell Development, Mohegan Sun and Plainfield Asset Management.

"All of the groups had valid proposals, but Delaware North presents the strongest financial proposal with an upfront payment of $370 million," Governor Paterson said.

And lord knows, the state could sure use the cash.

But the locals are less than thrilled, according to a recent article in racing newspaper Thoroughbred Times:

Assembly member Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park), whose 23rd District includes Aqueduct, said on Thursday that she was disappointed by New York Governor David Paterson’s choice of Delaware North Companies to run the Queens racetrack’s gaming center.

Paterson’s announcement, made on October 10, also has drawn fire from community groups surrounding Aqueduct and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Center), all of whom say it does not do enough to promote local economic development. The proposal, they say, calls for a racino only while other bidders included plans for a hotel, upscale retail shops, and entertainment, all of which would create hundreds of extra jobs.

…“The other two proposals included much more vision,” Pheffer said. “The key word is destination, making Aqueduct a place where people would want to go, something that would enhance the community and make people want to come back. Delaware North didn’t really meet with the community.”

The Delaware North project will install 4,500 video lottery terminals at the underdog racing track, according to a recent article in the Queens Chronicle:

Delaware North remains confident that it is the right choice. It will develop “a world-class gaming and entertainment destination that will bring much-needed economic development support to the community and the state,” according to Delaware North President William Bissett.

[Mr. Bissett] called the proposal an incredibly important project for Queens and said: “We certainly look forward to working with community leaders and residents as we collectively bring the vision to life.”

Hard Rock and SL Green previously said they would build the so-called VLTs and then use the revenue to possibly build a Hard Rock hotel "designed to 4-Diamond standards, [with] restaurants, a spa and fitness center, Hard Rock’s legendary pool experience and a display that would showcase some of Hard Rock’s most valuable music memorabilia; an Aqueduct Entertainment Complex [with] nighttime entertainment and high-end retail and outlet shops; and a Hard Rock Live Entertainment venue.”

Mitchell Etess-Grossinger, president and CEO of Capital Play’s proposal, said its proposal would also include a hotel.

According to The Saratogian, the New York Racing Assocation, which operates all New York racetracks, is "slated to get 7 percent of the Aqueduct racino’s net earnings – up to $25 million per year for capital expenses, $20 million for operations – and everything and anything is open to suggestion as the firm seeks ways to improve its three tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course."

A NYRA rep told the Chronicle that the VLT facility should be running by spring 2010 and is expected to generate $450 million in revenue a year.