Six ante $1M Aqueduct entry fee

For what everyone concerned hopes is the final time, six bidders for the Aqueduct Racino broke from the gate recently.

Representatives of the groups that anted up the $1 million entry fee sat in a VIP lounge on Tuesday, June 8, as Lottery Director Gordon Medenica explained what they were getting for their money, before taking a private tour of the Ozone Park track.

Medenica made several things clear to distinguish this bidding process from its ill-fated predecessors – notably that “no lobbying will be permitted” during the process, that all proposals will be made public (except for sensitive proprietary information) and that within legal principles, the $300 million up-front payment will be “non-refundable.”

Several other differences were outlined, including the general framework by which the 0-100 point score for each bid will be determined. “I don’t want to provide a blueprint on how to bid,” Medenica explained to one questioner. “We want some creative differences in the bids.”

It was also made clear that anyone with a 5 percent stake in a publically-traded corporate bidder will be vetted, as will anyone with a 1 percent stake in any privately-held bidder.

Bidders have until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15 to submit any questions or proposed changes in the agreement, which the Lottery board made clear they might accept – or reject. The Lottery will respond one week later, and by 4 p.m. on June 29 – the bids are due. The recommended bidder will be announced by Tuesday, August 3.

Governor David Paterson, with the leaders of the State Senate and Assembly will actually pick the winner. Paterson has said he will support the Lottery’s choice.

In addition to coming up with $300 million within 10 calendar days of the final award, the winning bidder will have to assume up to $25 million in loans to the New York Racing Authority (NYRA) plus other possible expenses, to be compensated out of gaming revenue.

Of the six groups, four of the participants are new to the project. One is Empire State Gaming, operator of the Empire City Racino at Yonkers Raceway. The other is Genting New York LLC, part of a Malaysia based conglomerate.

According to published reports, the state’s Racing and Wagering Board already has an ongoing investigation into “key officials” of Genting’s parent company.

Privately, some among the bidders are grumbling about the state’s demands. When one bidder alluded to “The highest-ever payment for the highest-taxed gaming operation in the country,” Medenica reassured the group of the desire to make the project work.