By Howard Koplowitz
With the state in a budget crunch and losing $1 million in education money for every day the video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Race Track are not up and running, a spokesman for Gov. David Paterson said there is no deadline for selecting a firm to run the machines at the Ozone Park track.
“There’s no timeline. We never had a timeline on it,” said spokesman Morgan Hook.
Hook said the administration was “hopeful” to have an agreement soon.
Five firms — Aqueduct Entertainment Group, SL Green, the Peebles Corp., Penn National Gaming and Delaware North — are in the running for the VLT contract.
While The New York Times reported Paterson was favoring either SL Green or Delaware North to win the contract, Hook said the administration has not publicly said which team it would like for the contract.
The Times also reported the state Senate prefers Aqueduct Entertainment Group, but this could not be independently verified.
A group led by Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn dropped out of the bidding after Paterson demanded a $200 million upfront payment from the winning bidder.
That $200 million figure is now part of Paterson’s deficit reduction plan for the budget even though the state does not have that money yet from the successful bidder.
Buffalo-based Delaware North was initially selected as the winning bidder among three contenders in October 2007, but was unable to come up with the $370 million upfront payment it promised the state.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) expressed frustration over the months of delays in selecting a winning bid.
“By now, this decision should have been made, shovels should be in the ground and money should be flowing into the coffers of the state. In this economy and with the Legislature meeting in special session over the budget shortfall, our people need jobs now,” he said in a statement.
“The communities and people that surround Aqueduct can certainly use the local economic benefit that comes with starting the project,” Addabbo said. “For months the governor’s office has had the information needed from the same six bidders in order to make a decision and I believe a decision must be made as soon as possible.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.