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More twists and turns in Aqueduct race

In the words of Alice in Wonderland, the process to pick a Racino operator for Aqueduct Racetrack is getting “curiouser and curioser,” as a second disqualified bidder has sent a lawyer’s letter.
            Manhattan development powerhouse SL Green has fired off a seven-page lawyer’s letter to the Lottery, protesting its July 7 disqualification, saying that “The Lottery has effectively turned the [bidding] into a sole source procurement.”
            The letter, which reserves SL Green’s right “to assert additional challenges to this process,” comes on the heels of an injunction on behalf of Aqueduct Entertainment Corp. (AEC), the rejected winner of the last contest, demanding that they get back the franchise to operate at the South Ozone Park track.
            AEC is scheduled to present its case in an upstate Schenectady court on Friday, July 23. The suit was filed there because it is where the Lottery is headquartered.
The Lottery objected to the original injunction in court, but it was only partially lifted. Although negotiations with Genting New York LLC can continue, no final decision – originally scheduled to come on Tuesday, August 3 – can come until the judge decides on AEC’s case.
            In the SL Green letter, dated July 15, attorney Harold N. Iselin calls the current process “fatally flawed,” pointing out that the state’s Request For Proposals (RFP) did not prohibit bidders straying from its terms.
Bidders were warned verbally that non conforming bids would be rejected during the mandatory meeting at the race track on June 8. Iselin, however points out that the state had established a practice of changing the rules, accepting changes to “final” proposals and otherwise blurring the process.
            The letter says that “the process has been eviscerated” by the elimination of all but one contestant – defeating the state’s original intent.
It also protests the fairness of this round, because newcomer Genting got an advantage when Governor David Paterson ordered the release of the bids – including SL Green’s – in mid-February, after AEC was declared the winner.
Iselin suggests a simple solution.
“We call upon the Lottery to suspend the process, modify the [terms] so that at least three companies indicate it is acceptable and then re-issue the RFP,” he suggests, concluding that “This approach will not only be fair to the bidders but also has the best possibility producing a
bid that serves the broad interests of the state.”

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