Plans to install video-lottery machines—some dare call them slots—at Aqueduct Race Track are mired in the mud of Albany politics. It’s time for Governor Paterson to put the much-needed plan on the fast track.
The plan to install VLTs at Aqueduct has been kicking around since the Pataki administration. While some venues, like Yonkers Raceway, have converted their facilities, the plan to revitalize Aqueduct has languished for no good reason. In the meantime, Pennsylvania has installed VLTs in several locations (the Poconos, Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia) tantalizingly close to the New York metropolitan area. Harrisburg, then, is raking in money from New Yorkers at a time when Albany needs every dollar it can get.
The Aqueduct conversion will bring in about $400 million a year in extra revenue if done properly. Six companies have placed bids and are eager to start. The problem for the delay is not with the bidders, but with a dysfunctional political process that discourages private investment and makes New York so grossly uncompetitive with other states.
Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senator John Sampson know better than anyone else that New York must do something, quickly, to avoid another budget catastrophe. As it stands now, Albany has to cut $3 billion in spending to close yet another canyonlike budget gap. While the VLTs at Aqueduct won’t solve the state’s long-term budget crisis, it surely will help ease the pain.
All the more reason to bring this business to the finish line. Let’s stop driving away business and start collecting revenue.