06/18/2007 12:00AM

New York bidder would consider slots-only deal


The chief executive of Empire Racing, one of the companies seeking the slot-machine and racing franchise held by the New York Racing Association, said Monday that Empire had told state officials it would consider a bid to operate the slot-machine side of the franchise only.

Jeff Perlee, chief executive of Empire Racing, made his comment in a letter to representatives of Gov. Eliot Spitzer that was a follow-up to a meeting on June 8 with them. In the letter, Perlee said that Spitzer's representatives confirmed in the meeting that the state was leaning toward retaining a "reconstituted" NYRA as the racing operator and selecting a company to operate a yet-to-be-built casino at Aqueduct in Queens.

Officials of Empire had previously declined to comment on the June 8 meeting. Perlee sent the letter to Richard Rifkin, Spitzer's chief counsel and the head of a panel that held hearings on the NYRA franchise earlier this year, to "correct" several published reports that suggested Empire was not willing to partner with NYRA.

"We specifically stated that if this new framework were adopted that we would remain interested and would continue to seek the revised franchise," Perlee said.

NYRA's franchise expires at the end of this year. The racing side of the business has been unprofitable for years, and the casino at Aqueduct is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue.

Representatives of Spitzer did not return phone calls on Monday.

Two other groups seeking the franchise met with Rifkin on June 8: Excelsior Racing Associates and Capital Play Pty. Officials of Capital Play said after the meeting that Spitzer's officials had indicated they were leaning toward NYRA as the racing operator, but a spokesman for Spitzer said the same day that no decision had been made.