The only bidder vying for the video lottery terminal contract at Aqueduct Race Track informed the community of its plans during a public hearing at Aqueduct last week and said it would draw customers from John F. Kennedy International Airport, Citi Field and Manhattan if it is lucky enough to be selected by the state Lottery Division.
Jay Walker, spokesman for Genting NY — a subsidiary of the Malaysian-based conglomerate Genting Malaysia Berhad — said the company will turn Aqueduct into “a tourist magnet that can attract people from Manhattan, the Mets and JFK.”
Walker said about 45 million people pass through Kennedy every year and “hardly any of them stop off here,” referring to Aqueduct.
“These people who are sitting, watching TVs at JFK concourse, that is our job right there,” he said. “All we have to do is market to these people.”
Walker also said Citi Field, where about 3 million Mets fans attend games in Flushing each year, could be a good area to get Aqueduct customers either by using shuttles buses or trains.
Genting would also look to the 47 million people who visit the city every year. Aqueduct is accessible via the A train from Manhattan and Jamaica Station.
Walker said the plan is “three ways that a smart company can partner with the community to build a day-trip destination here.”
But City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) was skeptical that Genting’s reliance on the subway to attract customers was viable considering Metropolitan Transportation Authority service cuts, saying the A train is “bursting at the seams.”
Walker said Genting would try to persuade the MTA that if it added more trains to make Aqueduct more accessible to Aqueduct customers, the agency’s revenue would increase.
Amid a report from the Center for an Urban Future that suggested the Aqueduct site be used for something other than a racino, Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton asked the hearing’s attendees to raise their hands if they agreed with the study, but nobody did.
Genting introduced its executives and the architectural firm it hired to design its plans to the community during the hearing.
Genting NY President Michael Speller said he has 35 years of gaming industry experience and was a former president of Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.
“We will make sure that the impacts that will happen [during construction at Aqueduct] are minimized,” he said. “We want to create a destination area for a great day-trip, evening trip. It’s got to be more than slot machines ... and it has to be great entertainment.”
Speller said city residents who go to casinos usually flock to Connecticut or Atlantic City.
“It’s important that these customers choose Aqueduct over Connecticut or New Jersey,” he said.
Speller said if selected, Genting expects to spend $30 million a year on local goods and services, including advertising, food service and taxi drivers.
Brian Davis of JCJ Architecture, a firm partnering with Genting, said plans for Aqueduct include a three-story atrium with a digitized water show.
“This is not a slot parlor,” he said. “This is a casino that will rival any gaming experience.”
Also planned are a two-story food court, buffet, 100-seat signature restaurant with private rooms for parties and a Chinese restaurant.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2010 Community News Group
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