Friday, August 6, 2010

Lottery Approves of Genting Casino Bid by Bryan Yurcan - Queens Chronicle

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This artist’s rendering shows what the clubhouse at Aqueduct Race Track might look like if Genting NY receives state approval to build a gaming and entertainment facility there. RENDERING COURTESY GENTING NY
As was expected, the state Division of the Lottery formally approved Genting New York’s bid to operate a gaming and entertainment facility at Aqueduct Race Track Tuesday.

The company, a subsidiary of Asian gaming giant Genting Malaysia Berhad, now has the inside track to begin constructing the facility, which would feature 4,500 video lottery terminals, though it still faces some hurdles. The deal still must be approved by Gov. Dave Paterson and legislative leaders from the Senate and Assembly.

Also, a former bidder for the gaming operation, Aqueduct Entertainment Company, is still trying to legally block the process from going forward, claiming the state’s selection process was flawed. However, a state judge last week dismissed a lawsuit from the group that sought to halt the process, though AEC said it plans to appeal the ruling.

In recommending the Genting bid, Lottery Director Gordon Medenica wrote in a letter to Gov. Paterson’s office that the company had proved itself to be experienced and professional in running gaming operations throughout the world.

“Genting’s proposal was impressive on many levels,” he wrote. “Their proposal reflects a deep and insightful understanding of the opportunity and challenges of Aqueduct. Genting took nothing for granted. They understood the business risks that a winning bidder is required to accept, and they have a clear and rational plan for navigating the complex construction and operating environment of New York City. In addition, they are highly sensitive to the community issues, labor requirements and social concerns that a project of such scope encompasses.”

After so many false starts in prior attempts to revive Aqueduct, those in the surrounding community believe the project will now finally come to fruition.

Betty Braton, chairwoman of Community Board 10, said the board is pleased with the Lottery’s recommendation.

“We are hoping state leaders ratify Genting’s bid quickly,” she said. “For eight long years, this project has been delayed many times.”

Braton said members of the community still have some concerns, such as traffic and safety issues, but overall most are in favor of the project.

“We look forward to a partnership with them that is beneficial not only to the state and the racing industry, but to the many thousands of people who live in the community,” said Braton.

In a statement released by Genting shortly after the Lottery’s recommendation of its bid, company spokesman Stefan Friedman reiterated the company’s claim that the project would create 2,000 jobs and generate $500 million per year in state revenue.

“We hope the Lottery’s recommendation will be endorsed by the Legislature so we can immediately get to work creating jobs,” he said.

Genting’s proposal calls for a 93,000-square-foot gaming area on the first floor and a 42,500-square-foot gaming area on the second floor, an entrance with a three-story atrium and water feature, and a 2,200-car-parking facility, with valet service also available.

The company has said dining will be a major part of the complex, including a 200-seat high-end restaurant, 200-seat Chinese restaurant, a sports bar and grill with a 280-person capacity, and a two-story casual dining promenade with 450 seats.

Genting said it can have 1,600 of the video slots operating within six months, and have the remaining 2,900 ready to go by next summer. The company has said the entire project could be completed within 18 months.

Local elected officials also praised Genting’s plans for the decrepit racetrack.

“For the sake of my people, I look forward to working with Genting and the community as we move forward with building Queens’ newest tourist attraction that will provide 1,300 construction and post-construction jobs, financial benefits to the state, and long-term benefits to my constituents,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), a member of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. “I will also continue to stress those issues that need to be addressed by Genting, particularly traffic patterns and public safety.”

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park), said she has urged Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to quickly approved the bid.

“Be assured, I will demand that community concerns and input continue to be included in all future planning,” said Pheffer. “We must work diligently to bring the jobs, employment opportunities and economic stimulus that Aqueduct will provide to our local community and economy. ”

Added Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), “I am very pleased that the Lottery has unanimously selected a winning vendor for Aqueduct.”