Gov. Patakis plan to install 4,500 video slot machines at Aqueduct race has been put on hold. MGM Mirage, a key player in this project, is getting cold feet because the New York Racing Association is facing a criminal probe.
Good. Heres hoping the plan is dead in the water. It isnt that we dont think the governors scheme will work. We fear it will work too well. If the machines are installed, Aqueduct will make the citys OTB parlors look like church. There will be signs warning customers not to vote over their heads, but the machines will make hundreds of millions of dollars in profits each year precisely because people will be voting way over their heads.
Pataki apparently believes that the people coming to the track arent wagering enough of their hard-earned money on the horses. His video slot machines will suck the dollars out of the pockets of working men and women faster than any one race ever could.
Queens doesnt need the governors video slot machines. And the state can find less destructive ways to earn revenues.
The way we see it, a far better plan for Aqueduct is now under consideration. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is thinking about introducing NASCAR racing in Queens. This would make Aqueduct the only NASCAR track in the metropolitan area. According to published reports, the debate has been narrowed down to Aqueduct or Meadowlands. It remains unclear whether the track could accommodate both horse racing and NASCAR. Both sports have a limited season.
Like the slot machines, the NASCAR racing would generate millions of dollars for both the city and state. But it would do so by giving the people something of value in exchange for their money. Auto racing is first-class family entertainment. In fact, automobile racing is the nations fastest growing spectator sport. And yet, racing fans in New York City have no where to enjoy this sport.
We hope someday to hear the roar of race cars as they speed around the track at more than 160 mph. And we are confident that if NASCAR racing is introduced to Queens, it will be extremely popular. Meanwhile, if Pataki is so dead set on installing slot machines, let him put them at Saratoga. We dont need or want them here.
The honeymoon is over. We have often marveled at Gov. Patakis popularity in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5-to-1. Pataki was somehow able to convince New York City residents that he really cared about the problems they are facing.
But the refusal of the state Financial Board last week to approve the citys plan to repay debt by selling bonds raises serious questions about the governors loyalty to our city. On Sunday the governor voiced support for the decision that will cost the city $500 million this year. The plan has already been approved by the Republican-dominated Senate and the Democratic-controlled Assembly. But the plan needed a final OK from this obscure board, which is made up of two Pataki appointees and Democratic Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
Gov. Pataki knows well the sacrifices that were made to balance the citys budget. Hundreds of workers lost their jobs and important services were cut. The damage could have been far worse had the mayor, City Council and state Legislature not been able to find common ground. And now the board is trying to pull the rug out from under the citys recovery.
Thus far, despite his expressions of concern, Pataki has done nothing but stand in the way. New York City thought it had a friend in the governor. Boy were we fooled.
©2003 Community News Group
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