09/09/2010 9:19AM

Aqueduct casino on verge of approval

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New York’s comptroller said he anticipates completing a review of a state contract allowing a Malaysian gambling company to operate a casino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens by Tuesday.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s approval is the last that is needed to allow the company, Genting New York, to go ahead with construction of the casino, which is expected to generate at least $60 million a year in subsidies to the state’s Thoroughbred racing industry. The contract has already been approved by the state lottery, legislative leaders, and the state’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo. The lottery had recommended that Genting win the 30-year contract to operate the casino in August.
In a Wednesday release, DiNapoli said that he had requested additional information from lottery regarding the contract, but a spokesperson for DiNapoli, Dennis Tompkins, would not disclose details about what the comptroller was seeking.
“We’ve been working very closely with lottery all along the process,” Tompkins said. “We hope to wrap this up very soon.”
Officials for Genting have said that they will begin taking bets on 1,600 slot machines at the casino by next summer. The full casino should be up and running by the end of 2011, Genting has said.
The casino, one of nine that were approved at state racetracks by the state legislature in 2001, is seen as critical to the horseracing industry, which has struggled over the past five years. The New York Racing Association, which is the operator of Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, emerged from bankruptcy in 2008, and delays in approving a casino operator have exacerbated its financial problems. In addition to purse subsidies and funds for capital improvement projects, payments to NYRA from the casino will go toward the payback of a $25 million loan made by the state to NYRA earlier this year.
Following approval of the contract, Genting will have 10 days to forward a $380 million cash payment to the state. After the payment is received, Genting can break ground on the casino.