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NYRA inks agreement to remain at Aqueduct

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Under the deal, NYRA retains its franchise of the state's race tracks for another 25 years while withdrawing its ownership claims on the land where the tracks are situated, Gov. Eliot Spitzer said in a statement.The state would also give NYRA $105 million to help it emerge from bankruptcy proceedings.Video lottery terminals, devices similar to slot machines, will be installed at Aqueduct. The machines are expected to generate more than $300 million in revenue for the state, which would go toward funding education, the governor said.The agreement also answered the concerns of Queens state legislators whose districts cover Aqueduct.As part of the deal, the Ozone Howard Little League, which has baseball fields on Aqueduct land, will continue to have the land leased to it by the state."Aqueduct is the most accessible track in New York and is critical to the future of racing in New York state and I am very pleased with the agreement," said state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill) in a joint statement with state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) and state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale).The three legislators also called for the Aqueduct advisory board to consist mostly of members from Community Board 10, which covers the racetrack.A new, 25-person NYRA board of directors - 11 to be appointed by lawmakers and 14 by NYRA's existing board of directors - will also be created under the deal.Negotiations are underway with "interested private parties" to install the VLTs, the governor said. He said those talks should be completed within a month.While the three legislators who represent Aqueduct were in favor of the VLTs, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), a gambling opponent, was concerned that the machines would increase problem gambling in Queens."Make no mistake, this legislation sets a dangerous precedent and opens the door to more VLTs in Queens," Padavan said in a statement. "I stand in steadfast opposition to placing VLTs in our community. As I have said before, we are only gambling our future away if these proposals are enacted."Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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