Matt Hegarty reported a new spin on the reasons behind the Aqueduct fiasco in the Form the other day.
Several racing officials said that they believed the legislature's delay in selecting an operator for the Aqueduct casino could be influenced by elections scheduled for later this year, citing the campaign contributions that casino and real-estate developers frequently make during election cycles. By delaying a decision, politicians can milk contributors until the election is over.That's a harsh accusation which apparently was purposively planted in racing's Paper of Record by someone from the racing side. It speculates that public officials would hold the fiscal health of the state and the livelihood of thousands subordinate to the interests of their own political careers. And it hints at conspiracy and collusion as well. Sounds rather illegal, actually.
However, as I've said, given the lack of any reasonable explanation whatsoever why this is still dragging on without any resolution in sight, any speculation within the broadest parameters of reasonableness are perfectly fair. And I think that this particular postulation definitely qualifies as such.
- In his letter to Governor Paterson, Penn National's CEO Peter Carlino offered a theory of his own.
Since we are the high bidder, and have more experience in successfully developing and operating these types of integrated racing and gaming facilities in high tax jurisdictions, it would almost appear that some might be trying to find ways to not award this contract to Penn. I am sure that is not the case, but as you know, we have very little to go on except what we read in the press, or pick up in the halls in Albany.I am sure that is not the case, heh heh, I'm so sure.
This reader pointed out that the letter implied that it has been the highest bidder all along...and that the claim is not true....at least according to the news reports that pegged the company's initial bid at $5 million upfront. In this post, I characterized it as a "token offer" to put them in the game in case the others self-destructed. And in a sense, that's kind of where the company is trying to position itself today, albeit with an additional $296 million in hand. Not that (all) of the others have self-destructed. But the two main contenders have connections that could make their selection problematic in appearance (at least). On the other hand, Penn National, in addition to touting its high bid and ample experience, is portraying itself as the "'safe choice' or compromise candidate," as an official of the company told me via email. "We have nothing in our closet regarding any NY connections."
As for the "slots in the box" argument, I guess I'm really not sure exactly what the phrase means. A reader brought up Finger Lakes in making the case against them. For one thing, a look at their weekly figures [PDF file] year over year doesn't seem to support the idea that its customers are going elsewhere. In addition, I looked at their website, and they have, in addition to slots, the usual dining and entertainment thing going on. So, if that's "slots in a box," isn't too the wildly successful facility at Yonkers, where, according to the OTB Task Force report, some $6 billion of the $11.5 billion wagered on VLT's in the state in 2009 was handled? My take is that the same format would certainly be successful at the Big A (many people assume that it will fare even better than Yonkers), and that it's of an appropriate scale for the neighborhood.