Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sole Bidder Presents Aqueduct Racino Plans To Queens Locals by Ruschell Boone -

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After making a bid to the state, the last company standing in the competition to operate electronic slot machines at the Aqueduct Race Track in Queens took its pitch to the community on Friday. Borough reporter Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
Armed with a lot of questions about the plans to redevelop Aqueduct Race Track into a racino, residents and local leaders packed a Community Board 10 meeting at the racetrack. There, Genting New York, one of the world's biggest gaming companies, made its first public pitch to operate 4,500 electronic slot machines at the track.

"When you walk in, it's going to look like you walked into any other beautiful casino in the world, said Genting New York spokesman Jay Walker. "You'll see restaurants, you'll see a water feature. There's a big sports bar that's two stories tall planned here. It's going to be one nice place."

The company is also pledging to set aside 1 percent of its yearly profits for community projects.

"I personally feel that they have the mindset to do the right thing here, which we have been waiting so long for," said one local.

About ten years ago, Aqueduct started to look for a bidder. Last year, the governor finally picked the politically-connected Aqueduct Entertainment Group, which included former Congressman Floyd Flake and rapper-businessman Jay-Z, to run the racino, but that deal collapsed amid charges of favoritism.

Last week, the State Lottery Division disqualified two other bidders for trying to change a number of conditions, including a $300 million non-refundable licensing fee. That left Genting New York as the only current bidder.

While most residents seemed pleased with Friday's presentation, some had a number of concerns they wanted the company to address.

"I'm just concerned about the traffic needs of the location. Other than that, I like the idea," said one attendee.

"Jobs we have to see, because everybody says there's jobs out there and your neighborhood doesn't get the jobs," said another.

Genting representatives said traffic should not be a problem because patrons do not show up all at once, the way they do at sporting events. As for jobs, company officials said the project would generate about 800 permanent positions and 1,300 others during construction.

The project could be completed within 18 months, but it is uncertain if Genting will be selected.

"It's high time that all of the problems end and that we finally get an operator," said Community Board 10 Chairperson Betty Braton.

The State Lottery Division is expected to make a recommendation to the governor by August 3. If Genting is not approved, the search for an operator starts all over again.