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Convention spot talks stall with gaming giant

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said negotiations between the state and the developer of Resorts World for a convention center fell apart. Image courtesy Genting
TimesLedger Newspapers

The governor’s plan to build the country’s largest convention center in Queens fell apart after negotiations between the state and the potential developer broke down.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement during an interview on former Gov. David Paterson’s radio show Friday.

“The conversations haven’t really worked out,” the governor said, referring to negotiations with Malaysian gambling company Genting, which developed the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park.

Cuomo said the state began to listen to proposals from other gaming companies “a few weeks ago.” This decision came after gaming companies such as MGM and Caesar’s expressed frustration after the governor seemed to lock into a deal with the casino developer, according to a report in The New York Times.

The Times reported Monday that Cuomo received more than $2 million from gambling interests in December. The New York Gaming Association, a trade group founded by Genting and other companies that operates racetracks, contributed $2 million, while Genting chipped in $400,000 of its own money.

The cash went to the Committee to Save New York, a business and labor coalition founded by real estate developers and business executives shortly after Cuomo was elected governor.

A representative said the committee’s main objective is ensuring an economic boost in the state and no company will win the right to build a convention center because of monetary contributions.

“From the inception of CSNY, we have focused on a reform agenda designed to help create jobs, improve the economy of our state and get state government working for the people again,” said Michael McKeon, a representative for the committee. “We are proud of our track record, and if there are people who felt they were getting something more for contributing to CSNY, then they are simply wrong.”

The governor first announced the $4 billion plan to build a convention center during his second State of the State address earlier this year. Genting’s proposal would have established a 3.8-million-square-foot exhibition hall and hotel adjacent to the casino on the Aqueduct site.

A representative of Resorts World said the uncertainties and difficulties regarding a constitutional amendment to legalize table gaming in the state proved problematic in the negotiations to build up the site surrounding Aqueduct.

“Since opening our racetrack casino last October, Resorts World has created more than 3,000 jobs and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state and we’re prepared to continue that positive work for New Yorkers,” said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Resorts World. “We have several great ideas to develop our site into one of the world’s premier destinations for gaming and conventions, and we now look forward to working with Gov. Cuomo and participating in any competition for a convention center/casino project that the governor designs.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said while a convention center is still in the early stages, he is still optimistic the state will maximize the potential at Resorts World.

“The Resorts World site could have a groundbreaking for a convention center tomorrow if it were approved,” he said. “Most any other site is years away from developing a convention center due to environmental, traffic, soil and other studies that must be completed beforehand.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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