Sampson, AEG in Aqueduct memo flap

State Sen. John Sampson contends a memo he gave to a former colleague who lobbied for Aqueduct Entertainment Group was not confidential. AP Photo/Mike Groll
By Howard Koplowitz

State Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), the Democratic leader of the Senate, acknowledged sending a memo to a former colleague-turned-lobbyist representing Aqueduct Entertainment Group that led to AEG changing the terms of its bid for the video lottery terminal contract at Aqueduct.

But Sampson spokesman Austin Shafran said the senator does not believe the memo was confidential.

“This was a process without structure. It started flawed and stayed flawed, and with the bidding requirements changing regularly our analysis also changed. We did not and do not believe the memo Sen. Sampson shared was confidential,” Shafran said.

AEG was the only group of the five bidders to revise how much revenue it projected to generate if it won the VLT contract and was in last place in that category until it changed its numbers to catapult to first.

Last June, AEG said it expected the VLTs would bring in $2.9 billion to the state through fiscal year 2022-23, but revised that number Sept. 23 to $3.614 billion — more than $700,000 better than its original projection and the highest of the five bidders.

A spokeswoman for the state inspector general’s office, which is reviewing the AEG deal, had no comment on the memo Sampson said he gave to former Sen. Carl Andrews (D-Brooklyn, now a lobbyist.

But a source familiar with the investigation said the document had been leaked, which implies the memo was confidential.

Court records showed lawyers for Andrews’ firm, Carl Andrews & Associates, and the state inspector general’s office appeared in Manhattan Supreme Court June 16, where a motion by the attorney from Andrews’ firm to quash a subpoena was adjourned to July 28.

AEG was awarded the VLT contract last year, but was later deemed unlicensable by the state Lottery Division, which led the state to rescind the deal.

Meanwhile, the Jamaica branch of the NAACP scheduled a news conference Thursday at Aqueduct after it contended that the new bidding process for the VLT contract “is flawed in that it excludes minority- and women-owned business involvement as well as the involvement of the surrounding communities,” including Community Boards 12, 13 and 14.

Scrutiny of AEG intensified because one of its partners, influential southeast Queens minister the Rev. Floyd Flake, a former congressman, had a 0.06 percent stake in the consortium.

Flake had met with Gov. David Paterson three days after AEG was awarded the contract and following a report in The New York Times that quoted Flake as saying state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo would make “a great governor,”leading to speculation that Paterson may have met with Flake to curry favor for his re-election bid.

But Paterson wound up dismantling his re-election campaign shortly thereafter.

Bids for the VLT contract are due by June 30 and AEG will not be a part of that process since it did not attend a mandatory bidders’ conference earlier this month at Aqueduct.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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