June 18, 2007 -- ASSEMBLY Speaker Sheldon Silver called on Gov. Spitzer yesterday to reopen the bidding process for the right to run the casinos planned at Aqueduct racetrack and, possibly, Belmont Park.
Earlier this year, Spitzer decided to seek bids for a single operator for both the planned casinos and thoroughbred racing at the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga tracks - a move that Silver (D-Manhattan) told The Post had likely excluded other bidders interested in just casino operations.
Then Spitzer stunned many in the Legislature and the racing industry earlier this month when he switched gears and said he wanted to continue the New York Racing Association's exclusive franchise to operate thoroughbred racing, while picking another company to operate the casinos.
The governor said he would propose to the Legislature that it award that contract to one of three other would-be operators - Excelsior, Empire Racing or Capital Play, which had already submitted bids to run both operations.
The move to split the operations was widely seen as favoring Excelsior Racing, one of whose principals, Richard Fields, was a major contributor to Spitzer's gubernatorial campaign.
Silver said he was surprised by Spitzer's switch, which must eventually be approved by the Legislature.
"I think the governor should consider reopening the bids to find out if there are other people interested in participating," Silver told The Post.
"I think there will be more people interested in operating the casinos now that the horse-racing aspect of this has been spoken for."
Spitzer had said he would make his recommendation to the Legislature on a racing-casino operator no later than this week, when its regular session comes to an end. A Spitzer administration insider said the governor now plans to make the recommendation in late July or early August, when a special legislative session is to be called.
Silver said the Assembly's Democratic majority will decide as soon as today whether to vote on a measure legalizing gay marriages.
"It comes down to counting whether there are the 76 votes in the [Democratic] conference," said Silver, referring to the number of votes needed to pass the measure in the 150-member legislative body.
Silver, who has refused to say where he stands on the measure, called the ongoing count of Democratic votes "close" and said, "It could go either way."