- It's been over seven years now since VLT's were approved for Aqueduct; and just now, we learn that the state has put plans to develop a racino there on the fast track. With its projected tax revenues in serious doubt, the state is simply desperate for the money at this point. Governor Paterson has flashed the inquiry sign on the budget agreed to last month, and is already seeking new ways to cut spending and raise revenue going forward.
While the plan has been at various stages for years, state officials are aiming to choose among the three bidders vying to develop the racino in a matter of weeks, though final agreements among state leaders often prove elusive in Albany.As you may know, the other bidders are Capital Play/Mohegan Sun, and Delaware North/Saratoga Racing and Gaming.
But given the weakening economy and widening budget deficits, the state is motivated to expedite the process, and a bidding group led by the developer Stephen L. Green and the operators of the Hard Rock Cafe chain is even promising to open a temporary racino by the end of this year. [NY Times]
I find it interesting that Capital Play, which tried to overwhelm its rival franchise bidders with enormous financial offers, is now lowballing the state with its initial offer of $250 million - $100 for a licensing fee and the rest for redevelopment. The state is counting on a full $250 for itself up front. Instead, the group promises extra spending for marketing and a second phase to add a hotel. Here, Capital Play's Karl O'Farrell seems to have a plan.
“Approximately 40 million people come into JFK every year, so we would like to have basically our gaming facility and hotel at Aqueduct, as we call it, JFK's waiting room....We would like to bring the AirTrain right into the facility." [NY1]The AirTrain is a relatively new elevated monorail that runs directly to the airport from a major train station in Queens. This actually seems like a decent idea; in theory anyway. Businessmen staying in hotels around the airport would be a prime target. Plus, Capital Play can take their famous giant signs out of mothballs, and hang them around the terminals to direct all of the people waiting for delayed flights to go gamble for awhile. A trip on the AirTrain from JFK to Aqueduct would only take a few minutes.
But in reality, construction of such an extension to Aqueduct would take years just to get approved given the mass disruption to businesses and residents along Rockaway Turnpike it would cause.
Delaware North is offering the most upfront - some $370 million.
The Aqueduct operation would include 4,500 slots plus eight restaurants, ranging from full-service eateries to more casual concession stands and food courts. The gaming operation would occupy nearly 300,000 square feet at the track. [Buffalo Business First]SL Green/Hard Rock Cafe is offering $250 as a licensing fee, and another $130 in construction costs.
In addition, it is proposing to spend $28.5 million to finance upstate horse farms and breeding, which could appeal to Mr. Bruno, who is himself a horse breeder upstate. [NYT]You might remember just how well the upstate farm strategy worked for Empire; glad to see that its former investor SL Green learned a lesson from that.
- Did anyone else notice that trainer Gregg Matties is back in action at Belmont? He ran two horses over the weekend. You might recall that NYRA, in a rather cryptic announcement, told us last month that Matties had been asked to vacate the premises due to "irregular betting patterns" involving his family members that were discovered by the TRPB. His brothers are big bettors, but we were wondering what would be so irregular about them betting on his horses. We had heard rumors that Matties was threatening to sue in order to retain his stalls. But that's the last I had heard. If there's been a story in the media regarding his reinstatement, I missed it. His return seems as mysterious as his apparently brief departure. [UPDATE: In an email response, a NYRA spokesperson says: "The trainer was denied stall space for this meet, but is allowed to ship in."]