Friday, July 30, 2010

Judge Delays Verdict on Aqueduct Lawsuit by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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A state judge has delayed a ruling affecting bids for a proposed racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park.

State Supreme Court Judge Barry Kramer on July 23 continued the hearing regarding the lawsuit filed against the state by Aqueduct Entertainment Company for rescinding its decision to award the firm the 30-year franchise to develop and operate the video lottery terminals at the Ozone Park racetrack.

Kramer said he needed more time to review the documents that were submitted by the parties to the lawsuit.

State officials are allowed to continue to evaluate Genting New York’s bid while the court case continues, Kramer said.

The judge set the next court date for Thursday July 29, when he is expected to make a decision on the case.

On July 6, AEC sued the Lottery and several elected officials seeking a permanent halt to the bidding process and asking the court to declare the group the winner. Kramer ordered a halt to the bidding process on July 12 only to amend his temporary restraining order two days later.

Last January, AEC was declared the winner of the Aqueduct franchise, however, in March the state Lottery called the group “unlicensable,” and Gov. David Paterson cancelled the deal.

A Lottery spokeswoman said the vetting process of Genting is ongoing and the agency still intends to announce a recommendation on Aug. 3, unless it is ordered otherwise.

Earlier this month, two bidders for the Aqueduct franchise, a consortium of SL Green, Hard Rock International and Clairvest Group and Penn National Gaming were disqualified by the Lottery.

Lottery officials said the two bidders did not agree to all of the state’s terms set for the operator of the franchise.

SL Green wanted its $300 million licensing fee, required to be paid upfront, to be held in escrow until certain conditions were met by the state. The bidder also wanted a complete exemption from state and local sales taxes for construction, and wanted a cap on increases in local property taxes at 3 percent.

SL Green fired off a formal letter to the Lottery, which may be a prelude to a lawsuit, protesting the decision of the Lottery to disqualify the firm’s proposal from consideration. “This decision was itself unfounded and, more importantly, reflects a flawed Request for Proposals that was designed to inhibit competition rather than promote it,” an attorney for SL Green said in the letter.

The Lottery has not responded to SL Green’s letter.

The video lottery terminals at Aqueduct are expected to generate more than $800 million for the state.