Something Stinks at Aqueduct

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The state may finally be ready to move forward at Aqueduct Race Track. The plan is to introduce casino gambling at the track using video gambling machines. It is expected the casino will raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the state and company that wins the right to run the operation.

And that is the problem. The process for picking the company was done behind closed doors. When it was completed, Gov. David Paterson, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and state Senate Democratic boss John Sampson announced the franchise would be given to the Aqueduct Entertainment Group.

One of its key investors is the Rev. Floyd Flake, a former congressman and an influential figure in southeast Queens.

Through his church, Flake has done good for southeast Queens. His church has built affordable housing for people with modest incomes and housing for senior citizens and helped create jobs for the unemployed. We hope some of the profits from the video gambling will be poured back into the community.

But we do not know that because practically nothing about the process has been made public. There were five bidders but their proposals have never been made public. AEG reportedly received a low rating by the state Lottery Division.

What we find disturbing is that Paterson held a meeting with Flake three days after AEG was awarded the contract that was arranged by one of the governor’s political advisers. Prior to this, Flake had left open the possibility of supporting state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in the governor’s race.

Paterson insists there was no “quid pro quo,” but the timing of this meeting stinks to high heaven like everything else in the casino process.

Does Flake believe another opportunity to gamble away the rent money is a good thing for southeast Queens? Does the possibility of creating new jobs outweigh the dangers of machines that can do great damage to a family in just minutes?

We respect what Flake has accomplished in southeast Queens; we have less respect for the tomfoolery in Albany. The creation of video gambling at Aqueduct should not have taken eight years and the process should not have taken place behind closed doors.

Updated 6:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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