As reported today by the Queens Courier, Governor Paterson's spokesperson Morgan Hook declined to set a date by which he expects the three men in a room to pick the winner of the Aqueduct racino sweepstakes. And he confirmed that each of the six (or seven) bidders will have to be vetted anew. Oh man.... “Vetting is part of the process and we’ve got to evaluate everyone based on today, as opposed to a year ago." Hook also confirmed for us what has become painfully clear over the last few years - this matter is not necessarily top priority.
“There are six or seven weeks until the end of the Legislative Session,” he observed. “The governor, majority leader and speaker have a lot of things taking up their time – this is just one of them.” [Queens Courier]Thanks for pointing that out.
By now perhaps you've seen the press release issued by the no-longer-shadowy Aqueduct Entertainment Group. Therein lies the facts and details - at least as laid out by the parties themselves - on each of the seven participants. As reported previously by Tom Precious on Bloodhorse.com, the consortium does include The Darman Group, a real estate development company originally incorporated as Smith Darman, as in Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. As reported by the Daily News in 2006:
Smith took his name off the company and says he cut his ties with it in 2000, when he took office. He said he left it to his partner, Darryl Greene, a major player in the minority contracting world who pleaded guilty in 1999 to defrauding city agencies, including the School Construction Authority.According to the press release, The Darman Group will be working with an entity called Empowerment Development Corporation, which was founded by Senator Smith's longtime close advisor the Rev. Floyd Flake, who told the Courier that he was not familiar with the details of the rest of the proposal, and the other participants in the group. But we can kinda guess why he is there.
"I've got nothing to do with this company," he said.
Another local real estate outfit that's in the group is Levine Builders. Jeffrey Levine is the president of that outfit, and there's a person by that name listed as a contributor of $2500 to Senator Smith's campaign in 2006 on a NYS Board of Elections Financial Disclosure Report [pdf]. But hey, I'm sure there are a lot of Jeffrey Levines that have contributed to the Senator's campaign, right? I've just started poking around, and we'll see what else comes up...
The Navegante Group is the company with the gaming expertise.
The Navegante Group currently operates five casinos in the United States and three casinos internationally.Navegante operates the Grand Sierra in Las Vegas, and a look at the consumer reviews on Yahoo are decidedly mixed....at best....which is better than what this Las Vegas blogger has to say.
The Navegante Group brings a wealth of experience to Aqueduct, having undertaken a similar project in Niagara Falls, Ontario resulting in an unmitigated success for the local area. The Casino Niagara consists of a total of 95,000 square feet of gaming space, including over 1,700 slot machines and 60 table games.
OK, OK, now I'm being an unprofessional snarky blogger just cherrypicking some negative stuff from Google. But why wouldn't this company mention their Las Vegas properties in the press release? Just sayin. I'll have some more fair-minded stuff to say once I have some time to do more research I'm sure..