09/13/2010 4:14PM

Operator for Aqueduct casino gets state comptroller's approval

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New York’s state’s comptroller on Monday approved a contract giving a Malaysian company a 30-year right to operate a casino at Aqueduct racetrack, paving the way for construction to begin on the casino sometime this fall.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s approval was the last required to put the contract into force, after prior approvals from state legislative leaders and the state attorney general. The Malaysian company, Genting New York, now has 10 days to forward the state a $380 million upfront payment. After the payment is made, and after a review of the environmental impact of the project – a process that is expected to take approximately 30 days – the company can break ground.

DiNapoli’s approval followed nine years of torturous maneuverings to name an operator for the casino following the legislative approval of slot machines at racetracks late in 2001. The state lottery had conducted three bidding rounds for the contract, with the first two winners eventually disqualified for financial or political reasons. In the final round, Genting was the only operator who met the lottery’s requirements.

“After nearly a decade of false starts and broken promises, the [slot-machine] contract is done,” DiNapoli said, in a statement. “This is one of the most important vendor contracts New York has ever signed.”

Stefan Friedman, a spokesperson for Genting, said that the $380 million upfront fee will be forwarded to the state within 10 business days. The company remains confident that 1,600 machines will be up and running at Aqueduct by April, and that the full project will be completed by the end of 2011, aside from some aesthetic touches.

The casino is expected to generate at least $60 million in subsidies for the New York racing industry each year.