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Paterson fast-tracks Aqueduct slot contract

After years of talk about adding casino-style slot machines to Aqueduct Race Track, a contract to operate a racino at the track is expected to be awarded within the next two weeks, a spokesman for Gov. David Paterson said Monday.

Three firms vying for the contract to install video lottery terminals devices similar to slot machines at Aqueduct made presentations about their proposals to state leaders last week, according to Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook.

"We're just waiting on a decision at this point," Hook said, noting that it should be done "in a week or two."

State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach), whose district covers Aqueduct, said she expected a decision about 10 days after the presentations were made April 30.

"We're closer than we've ever been, although I've said that once before," Pheffer told Community Board 10 last week.

Firms originally were vying for both the VLTs and lease to operate the state's racetracks at Aqueduct, Belmont Race Track and Saratoga Race Course until former Gov. Eliot Spitzer split up those contracts late last year.

The state chose to continue its lease with the New York Racing Association, which decided not to seek the VLT contract.

Under the new format, only one entity Capital Play that pursued the lease wound up making a bid on the VLTs.

The two other firms interested in the slot machine contract are Hard Rock Entertainment the company that operates hotel-casinos in Las Vegas and Tampa, Fla. and Mohegan Sun, the owners of the Connecticut resort.

The firms made their presentations behind closed doors with state leaders, a strategy Hook defended.

"We needed these bidders to really put their best foot forward and not play the process to the media," he said.

While he would not say which of the three companies is the most likely to get the contract, Hook said Paterson is satisfied with them all.

He denied that a decision on the VLTs, an idea first proposed during former Gov. George Pataki's administration, was being sped up because the state is in economic dire straits and needs the revenues.

"The opportunity to have VLTs has been around for years and this is all part of the process to award a new franchise," Hook said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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