08/11/2010 3:49PM

Legislative leaders back Aqueduct casino bid


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – New York’s legislative leaders have agreed to endorse the state lottery’s recommendation to have a Malaysian-based company build and operate a casino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, a development that will pave the way for the construction of the casino nine years after it was first approved.

Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the state’s General Assembly, told Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday morning that he would endorse the proposal, according to a spokesperson, Siso Moyo. On Tuesday night, Senate Temporary President Malcolm Smith also agreed to endorse the proposal, according to his representatives.

Under statute, Paterson and the state’s legislative leaders were required to approve the operator of the casino. Paterson has already said that he would accept the recommendation of the state lottery, which was in charge of evaluating bids for the casino.

Although the state’s attorney general and comptroller must still endorse Genting’s operating contract for the casino, the approvals of the state legislative leaders were considered the highest hurdles for the bid. As a result, it is nearly certain that Genting will start construction on the casino within the next month.

The casino will likely provide at least $65 million in annual subsidies to the New York Racing Association and its horsemen, according to NYRA officials. Those funds will be used to boost purses and pay for improvements at NYRA’s three tracks as well as provide relief from critical shortages of operating funds over the past several years.

Genting officials have said that they hope to begin taking bets on 1,500 slot machines at Aqueduct within six months of starting construction. Within a year, the company expects to be operating the full complement of 4,500 machines that have been approved for the casino and to have completed all but some aesthetic elements of construction at the casino.

The casino will take up portions of two floors of Aqueduct’s immense grandstand, according to Genting’s plans. Located on a subway line connecting the track to Manhattan, Aqueduct rarely draws crowds in excess of 10,000, with the exception of the Thanksgiving holiday and Wood Memorial Day.