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Aqueduct deal could be close: Sen. Addabbo

An end to the long-delayed process of selecting of a vendor to rejuvenate Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park with 2,500 or more video lottery terminals and other new development may be in sight.

A decision will likely be announced by the end of the month, ending months of speculation, according to state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach).

“If I had to estimate, I would guess it would be the third or fourth week of October,” he said Tuesday. “As far as I know, the governor has enough information to make a decision, and a decision may have already been made, but they may just be waiting on an announcement.”

Gov. David Paterson is first supposed to indicate his preference out of the six bidders, then he and the state Legislature will ultimately decide who gets the contract.

But for every day the track goes without the terminals — slot-like machines also known as VLTs — the state is missing out on an estimated $1 million of revenue which would benefit education and the New York Racing Authority, according to officials.

That funding has been seen by many as a way to help solve the state’s budget crisis.

The six bidders vying for the lucrative contract include SL Green/Hard Rock Entertainment, Wynn Resorts Limited of Las Vegas, Aqueduct Gaming, Aqueduct Entertainment Group, MGM Grand at Aqueduct and Penn National Gambling.

Paterson’s office did not return a request for comment.

A study released Sept. 21 by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, however, called such projected revenues into question, contending that funding from lotteries, gambling and racinos vary more than money from traditional funding sources like taxes.

Gambling revenue generally increases every year and has nationwide for over a decade, the study said. But this year’s economic crisis led to an unprecedented 2.6 percent national drop in gambling revenue, which the study pointed to as evidence that such estimates should be treated as less dependable than tax revenues.

“Expenditures on education and other programs will generally grow more rapidly than gambling revenue over time,” according to the study. “Thus, new gambling operations that are intended to pay for normal increases in general state spending may add to, rather than ease, long-term budget imbalances.”

Regardless, the state will continue to miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential revenue until the VLTs and associated development such as hotels and restaurants are in operation. Addabbo estimated the state has already missed out on $250 million in revenue due to the delay in selecting a vendor and said once the contract is awarded, it will be eight months to a year before construction will be complete and the new facilities will open for business.

The state is also expected to receive an up-front payment worth $100 million or more from the winning bidder, which the state can allocate as it pleases.

“In a perfect world, I would like to see the state not have to rely on this type of income,” said Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton. “But we don’t live in a perfect world, so because of the economic state the state is in, this would be a significant influx of money, and in the current climate that’s not a bad thing.”

The bidders have made proposals for community development and other initiatives, such as the construction of a youth academy or a small business development center, which Braton, Addabbo and state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) say are important in their assessments of the various bidders.

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