05/11/2009 12:00AM

Big A casino bid's details are sketchy


The state of New York will not provide any details about the seven bids that were submitted on Friday to build and operate a casino at Aqueduct, a spokesman for Gov. David Paterson said on Monday.

The refusal to provide details is creating some confusion about which companies bid on the project. The list of bidders distributed by the state includes a reference to a company that was formed by unknown principals, lists a company that is also part of a bid submitted by another company, and names another bidder that said late Friday that it is not a bidder.

"I've seen a lot of conflicting information," said Charles Hayward, the chief executive of the New York Racing Association, which holds the racing franchise for Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. "We're as in the dark as anyone else."

Hayward said NYRA is not involved in any group seeking the franchise.

The Aqueduct casino has been approved for 4,500 slot machines and has the potential to become one of the highest-grossing casinos on the Eastern seaboard. Gov. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith will determine which company gets the nod.

Delaware North, the real-estate development company that operates two racetrack casinos in New York, is listed by the state as one of the seven bidders seeking the contract. On Friday, Delaware North distributed a statement saying that the Peebles Corp., along with Saratoga Gaming and Raceway and McKissack & McKissack, were partners in its bid. The Peebles Corp. was also listed by the state as seeking the casino contract as well, and is presumably bidding for the contract on its own in addition to the Delaware North partnership.

Delaware North officials said on Monday they would have no further comment on their bid. Officials of the Peebles Corp. did not return phone calls.

Also listed was a company called Aqueduct Entertainment Group, which was presumably formed in order to bid on the contract. Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Gov. Paterson, said the state would not release details about the principals in Aqueduct Entertainment, and efforts to determine the principals have been unsuccessful.

Another company listed by the state was SL Green Realty, the New York real-estate development company that had partnered with Delaware North in a previous unsuccessful bid for the racing franchise. Earlier this year, SL Green sued Delaware North, claiming the company used confidential information obtained during the partnership to launch its own bid.

In addition, the state said Mohegan Sun had submitted a bid, but according to the Norwich Bulletin, a Connecticut newspaper, Mohegan Sun made a proposal to the state without submitting a formal bid. In its proposal, Mohegan Sun would operate the casino without paying for its construction, a plan that does not comply with the requirements of a request for proposals that was sent out earlier this year.

The two other companies are Penn National Gaming, the racetrack and casino operator, and a company formed by casino entrepreneur Steve Wynn.

This is the second time that the state has put the Aqueduct casino out to bid. Last year, the state selected Delaware North to build and operate the casino, but the company backed out after it could not get the state to agree to a revised payment schedule for a $370 million fee.

Casinos were legalized at nine New York racetracks in 2001. The Aqueduct casino is the only casino that has yet to open.