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What a Waste

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Although we had reservations about the state’s plans to open a video lottery casino at Aqueduct Race Track, we conceded in this time of financial crisis it was an acceptable way to raise money for the city and state. It beats taxing soft drinks both in its fairness and potential to raise revenue.

If a person wants to throw the family’s savings down the slots at a video terminal, it is no worse than playing the horses. We are saddened but not surprised that after eight years the state is back to square one in its search to award the contract for building and running the casino.

Last week, months after awarding the contract to Aqueduct Entertainment Group, state Lottery officials announced AEG did not have “high standards and credibility.”

In a press release, the governor’s office said, “The Division of the Lottery has concluded that it cannot issue a gaming license to Aqueduct Entertainment Group. Therefore, the state has officially withdrawn its support for AEG to develop and operate a video lottery terminal facility at Aqueduct Race Track.”

The statement then adds, “The Executive Branch advocates that the selection of the Aqueduct VLT franchisee be done pursuant to an expedited, transparent, apolitical and publicly accountable procurement process.”

This is everything the process has not been up until now. The bidders who lost were upset. There was no transparency or explanation why the contract should go to an organization that did not appear qualified for such an undertaking.

The awarding of the contact began to unravel when it was reported the governor signed off on the deal three days before the Rev. Floyd Flake, a politically powerful pastor in southeast Queens and an investor in AEG. The speculation is the governor had traded the contract for Flake’s endorsement of his election campaign.

Flake and Paterson insist there was no quid pro quo. Last week, Flake and rapper Jay-Z pulled out of AEG.

On March 31, the state was expecting to receive a $300 million upfront payment from AEG. The daily revenue from the casino at Aqueduct was expected to exceed $1 million a day.

Eight years is a long time to accomplish nothing — even in Albany.

Updated 5:52 pm, October 10, 2011
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