03/24/2010 12:00AM

Bill calls for new Aqueduct slots process


A Republican State Senator representing Brooklyn, N.Y., has introduced legislation that would alter the process by which the state government selects an operator for a long-stalled casino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, N.Y.

Sen. Marty Golden introduced the bill on Wednesday. The legislation would require that a major U.S. accounting firm conduct a review of all bidders for the contract and issue recommendations, and it would also require that a "third-party reviewer" selected by government leaders conduct an assessment of the recommendations made by the accounting company. In addition, the contract to operate the casino would not be awarded until after a joint public hearing conducted by the Senate and the Assembly.

In a statement, Golden said that the requirements in the legislation would "put an efficient, transparent process in place so we can ensure the best vendor is chosen as soon as possible."

Slot machines were legalized at Aqueduct and eight other New York racetracks in 2001. The process to select a casino operator has been bogged down by political and financial delays, most recently by the scuttling of a deal two weeks ago to name a sprawling politically connected partnership as the operator.

Under current law, New York Gov. David Paterson, Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, and Senate Conference Leader John Sampson control the selection of the operator. Critics have attacked the process for allowing politics to influence the selection.

Golden's bill would require the New York comptroller to select one of the four largest accounting companies in the United States to review the bids made to operate the casino, expected to be the most lucrative on the East Coast. While the accounting company would be responsible for issuing recommendations, the recommendations themselves would be reviewed by an additional entity selected by Paterson, Silver, and Sampson.

In addition, the legislation would require a public hearing within 10 days of the final recommendation being made. After that hearing, the final selection would be left to Paterson, Silver, and Sampson.

The legislation envisions the process taking approximately two months.