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Monday, September 22, 2008

No Big Surprise

- Thanks to reader jk for bringing to our attention this little tidbit buried in a column by Fredric U. Dicker in the Post on Monday.

The Wall Street crisis has led Paterson administration officials to temporarily put off a long-awaited decision on choosing one of three potential builder-operators of the Aqueduct racetrack's massive entertainment and casino complex.

The officials want to take a second look at the financing behind each of the three would-be operators to make sure it's still solid. [NY Post]
Of course, we were all anticipating that last week. It's certainly no surprise. In fact, it would have been a surprise had business proceeded as usual. We were also wondering if any of the three parties had the cash on hand, particularly Capital Play, who only pledged $100 million up front, and which threw huge numbers around during the franchise process. But Dicker's language - "a second look at the financing behind each of the three.." - implies that they do not.

The clock is ticking on the 24 months that NYRA said it can survive without slots money; as far as a deadline for starting construction, it's actually 12 months given the expected one year it would take to build. It's certainly not clear at this time what exactly is going to change regarding credit and real estate in the next 12 months. We've seen this matter slide by for far more than 12 months during the peak of the real estate boom...and the slots boom for that matter. So it's certainly conceivable it could do so again. Amazing considering that it's a guaranteed money maker for the state starving for cash...though who knows if it still will be when (if?) they finally get around to it. I wouldn't be complacent about this if I were NYRA.

The other bit of non-news from Monday is this article from Bloodhorse: No Network TV Coverage for Weekend Races. Well yeah, we knew that too. As pointed out previously, ESPN's last telecast was the Pacific Classic on August 24, and their next won't be until Keeneland. That's one telecast in the nine weeks leading up to the Breeders Cup. There are 12 Grade 1 races on tap between Belmont and Santa Anita this weekend; a number of them are, I guess, Breeders' Cup Challenge races. And aren't the races at Santa Anita especially newsworthy with respect to the Breeders' Cup just in and of itself? Even if the Win And Yer In program hadn't been over-diluted this year to the point where it's hardly news at all, you still can't expect that much momentum could have been sustained with such a big gap in the telecasts.

Curlin worked a leisurely half in 51 4/5 up at Saratoga, his final work for Saturday's race. Jess Jackson will certainly be pressed during a teleconference scheduled for today to disclose his plans - or lack thereof - for the Breeders' Cup. I think we'd like to see him win easily and with a little flair, like Commentator did. He'll of course be facing a far tougher field than did Zito's horse - Mambo in Seattle, Wanderin Boy, AP Arrow, Frost Giant area amongst his possible opponents. But he's the champ, and it's not unreasonable that people expect him to win like one. That might silence the speculation that he hasn't been the same since two races in Dubai.

Don't know how much of a marketing effort NYRA is going to put into this race after the disappointing crowds at Curlin's last two appearances here. I'd missed this piece by Odato in the Times Union blog with word that those crowds were at least partly behind the departure of Gavin Landry. But without some significant rivals, Curlin is just not appealing enough himself to make much of a difference, and Landry had an unenviable task. I mean, even the presence of Pass the Point would have added a little pizazz to this race, where the hell is he?


Anonymous said...

Yesterday when Dicker said the VLT deal was being temporarily "put off," James Odato writes, "The Delaware North team seeking the potentially lucrative rights to operate a video lottery terminal casino at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens has added Don Peebles, a prominent designer and developer known for his work in South Florida. The group also includes David Brand, one of Gov. David Paterson's closest friends, because its lobbying firm, Patricia Lynch Associates, added Brand. Paterson is expected to announce the winner in the competition for the VLT facility soon: there are three bidders."

"Announce soon" and "temporarily put off" don't seem to jive, so I guess one story is more accurate than the other? What a process.

El Angelo said...

For whatever reason, there's been basically no suspense, buildup or interest in the fall races so far. Here's to hoping that changes.

Anonymous said...

Peebles is a big Obama fundraiser.

Anonymous said...

Now there are financial troubles at Mohegan Sun. Will anyone be left standing to take on the Big A project?

Mohegan Sun delaying expansion plans
September 23, 2008

UNCASVILLE, Conn.—Trouble with the nation's economy has forced the Mohegan Sun casino in eastern Connecticut to delay the final projects of its $925 million expansion plan.

The Mohegan Tribal Council decided Monday to suspend construction of a 39-story hotel, a House of Blues music hall, a spa and additional retail and restaurant space, which were to be completed by the fall of 2010.

The remaining parts of the expansion, which have a budget of about $734 million, will be delayed a least a year and re-evaluated.

It was just last month that Mohegan Sun opened the new 64,000-square-foot Casino of the Wind.

Mitchell Etess, president and chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, says not even casinos are immune from problems with the economy.

Alan Mann said...

jk - Thanks, you're on a roll! You wanna take over for me for awhile? :-)

You gotta believe that Dicker's report is more accurate than Odato's at this point.

Anonymous said...

I have read about Don Peebles. He got his start in politics working for the notorius D.C Mayor Marion Barry. He left D.C after a deal with Barry went south, then went to Miami to fulfill a minority developer quest by the city in the mid-1990's. There he developed a reputation as a litigious fellow that constantly tries to change the terms of the deal, not being afraid to play the race card. He now hobnobs out at his Bridgehampton estate and is in fact one of Obama's key operatives. Having him forced on Paterson and NY to do something at Aqueduct would be typical of big time power plays, but unreasonable considering his lack of credentials for a gaming project. Based on this, I hope that Dicker's piece is more accurate than Odatos, but the mention by Odato of Governor Paterson's good pal David Brand, who is now at Patricia Lynch Associates, does leave one wondering just how "arms length" this whole VLT award really is and the associated politics going on behind the scene?

Anonymous said...

I am an Islanders fan so I would be happy to take over and clean up a few things on this blog!

Anonymous said...

Is there any correlation between the Mohegan Sun announcement to postpone an expansion in CT and their ability to move forward if awarded the Aqueduct project? I thought that Plainfield Asset Management had recently reaffirmed its $100 million dollar committment to the Mohegan Aqueduct project? This thing is indeed a moving target.

Anonymous said...

My guess is Mohegan's bank (B of A) stepped in and cut their credit line, causing Mohegan to postpone their expansion. This would not bode well for Mohegan going forward on the Big A project.

Anonymous said...

B of A isn't funding Mohegan for the Aqueduct job, Plainfield Asset Management is and that money has been confirmed.

Anonymous said...

Off topic but the weekend looks like a complete washout, wonder what plan B is for Curlin as he will likely scratch if the storm develops as projected.

Typical NYRA luck.

SaratogaSpa said...

Politics in New York screwing up the VLT??? Nah???

Anonymous said...

Speaking of NYRA, does anyone know if it has received the $30 million it negotiated as a part of the state bailout from bankruptcy? I remember Hayward saying that the NYRA had enough cash to make it through the Saratoga meet and here we are in late September.