Thursday, January 22, 2009

Addabbo Backs Plan for Blackjack, Craps and Roulette at Aqueduct Race Track by Howard Koplowitz -

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Delaware North may be adding to the planned video lottery terminals for Aqueduct Race Track, shown here, after a state senator is proposing to allow craps, blackjack and roulette at the track. Rendering courtesy of Delaware North

The video lottery terminals planned for Aqueduct may be joined at the Ozone Park track by their game of chance cousins — electronic blackjack, craps and roulette — if one state senator’s proposal is enacted.

State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) is suggesting that the other casino games should be installed at Aqueduct and other state racetracks where VLTs — devices similar to slot machines — are approved in an effort to boost revenue for education amid the state’s fiscal woes.

His colleague, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), whose district covers Aqueduct, is endorsing the idea.

“We probably wouldn’t be talking about this if it wasn’t for bad fiscal times,” Addabbo said in a telephone interview Friday. “If we have the opportunity to help to an extent the education part of the budget ... then we should explore some of these alternatives.”

Klein said the plan, which he introduced in the state Senate last week, would boost education revenue by $150 billion if it goes through.

He noted that Gov. David Paterson’s budget proposal slashes education funding by $698 million — or more than 3 percent — from last year’s budget.

“In these dire fiscal times we need smart solutions that not only maintain essential services, but keep our schools strong,” he said in a statement. “It is essential that our children get the quality education they deserve, which can be accomplished through growing lottery revenue.”

The senator said the state takes a $3.3 billion hit on revenues by New York residents gambling in Atlantic City, noting that nearly a quarter of Atlantic City visitors came from New York in 2007.

The bill has support from Gordon Medenica, director of the state Lottery, Leonie Haimson of the education advocacy group Class Size Matters and Kim Sweet of Advocates for Children.

Installation of 4,500 VLTs at Aqueduct and the construction of other amenities will be underway once the state signs off on a memorandum of understanding with Delaware North, the Buffalo-based company that was awarded the VLT contract.

Delaware North could not be reached for comment on the proposal.