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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pataki Previews Defense

- Gov. Pataki was in Saratoga on Saturday, and Paul Post, reporting for the Saratogian, got a preview of what his defense will be in response to the lawsuit filed by NYRA. Referring to the proposed agreement between NYRA/MGM and the Lottery Division that would have approved the racino, Pataki said:

"My internal counsel's office took a good look at the documents and had some changes that they felt were necessary that ultimately weren't agreed to.

"Until they agreed that it was an appropriate deal, I certainly wasn't going to sign it."
"The lawyers just never were comfortable with the actual agreement that NYRA had submitted. So until we had a legal document that everybody, particularly my counsel's office, felt protected the taxpayers and people of the state, it wasn't in the interests of the people (to approve it)."
The Lottery actually approved a deal last Dec 30, but NYRA/MGM requested what Pataki termed "two important technical amendments" in April. NYRA contends that the Lottery didn't even reply until July; and that the changes they requested were submitted on August 3. (The Lottery Division has nearly confirmed this, stating that they received the changes during the "second week of August."

Steven Crist in the Form [sub. only], quoting from NYRA's court filing, reports on a different explanation that NYRA claims Pataki previously provided them.
"Defendants withheld approval of the Aqueduct VLT Project at least in part to make the franchise to operate the Racetracks more attractive to prospective for-profit bidders . . . . Indeed, in August 2006, Defendant Governor Pataki and a senior member of his staff confirmed this, when they stated to the Chairman of NYRA's Board of Trustees that they would not permit final approval of the Aqueduct VLT Project because that would interfere [with the request-for-proposal process]."
If that's the case, it would lend support to Crist's argument that, considering the revenue lost due to the delay, NYRA's charges are a far more serious case of corruption and violation of the public trust than anything the beleaguered racing association has itself been accused. If you consider Pataki's latest explanation, it seems a stretch that the Governor, if he really wanted to, couldn't have had his lawyers iron out any problems, considering that it's now been four months, as admitted by the Lottery, since the latest agreement has been on the table.

And if you take a look at the action at the Yonkers racino, you get an idea of just how much money is involved. The NY Times reports today:
Empire City Gaming at Yonkers Raceway earned $35.6 million from Oct. 11, the day the casino opened, through Dec. 8, well above the other seven tracks that offer electronic casino games. The second-highest amount earned was $19.2 million at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway.
The article reports that around $19 million of that will go to education in the state. This Governor fought tooth and nail, and ultimately successfully, against a court order requiring sufficient state funds to be provided to New York City schools. We're anxious to hear his explanation in court of why he allowed potential monthly windfalls from the Aqueduct racino to go by the boards.