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The Aqueduct Issue

By Dave Lucas


Albany, NY – New York Racing Association, which runs Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Track, is on course to be bankrupt by 2011 because of the delay in selecting a winner for the VLTs. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas updates us on "the aqueduct issue"...

Aqueduct Entertainment was declared the winner of the VLT contract in March ... Two months later, the New York Racing Association declared itself broke and asked state government for $25 million to keep operating. New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli told the Bloomberg BusinessWeek that he feels "NYRA can't make it long without significant restructuring and revenues from VLTs." The hope and plan was to install Video Lottery Terminals at Aqueduct in Queens, to shore up NYRA's revenues and save racing once and for all. Jeff Cannizzo, executive director at New York Thoroughbred Breeders, believes Saratoga to be safe, for now.

The Aqueduct VLT contract has gone out to bid three times in the last three years. On Monday, Aqueduct Entertainment sued the state Lottery Division, Governor David Paterson and other state political leaders to halt the latest bidding process and restore their position as the winner. Latif Doman is one of the attorneys representing Aqueduct Entertainment. He says the lawsuit alleges the decision by the Lottery to deny AEC a video lottery license was in violation of its due process rights. He says the firm was required to have all company members submit to a "background check" - AEC refused and was denied the license to launch the racino. Doman says Aqueduct Entertainment is perfectly capable of heading the racino project. Justice Barry Kramer scheduled the hearing for July 23rd in Schenectady, where the Lottery Division is based. The hearing coincides with Opening Day at Saratoga. Jeff Cannizzo says whatever happens with Aqueduct and NYRA, the fate of racing is in the state's hands.

NYRA, the offices of Governor Paterson and State Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos declined to comment for this story.