10/15/2007 12:00AM

Six want to run Aqueduct casino

EmailSix companies, including the owners of Philadelphia Park and Finger Lakes racetrack, have expressed an interest in operating a casino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens under a contract with the state, the office of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced late on Monday.

The six companies include Finger Lakes’s owner Delaware North, in partnership with Saratoga Gaming and Raceway; Foxwoods Development Company, the owner of Foxwoods casino in Connecticut; Greenwood Racing, the owner of Philadelphia Park and a casino at that track; Mohegan Sun, the owner of a casino of the same name in Connecticut; the Seneca Gaming Corporation, which owns and operates two New York casinos on Native American lands; and the Shinnecock Indian Nation, in partnership with Gateway Casino Resorts.

In September, Spitzer recommended that the franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, and a casino at Aqueduct be split in two. Under the recommendation, the New York Racing Association would receive a 30-year extension to its current franchise agreement, while the state and NYRA would collaborate on selecting a casino operator for Aqueduct, where legislation allows for 4,500 slot machines.

Parties interested in running the Aqueduct casino had until the close of business on Monday to notify the state. According to Spitzer’s administration, the state is considering two proposals to govern the award of the casino franchise. One would give the state ownership of the casino but require the state to finance its construction and negotiate with an operator for an agreed-upon fee and performance bonuses. The other would require the casino operator to finance the construction and run the operation, while receiving the revenue splits designated by New York law.

Any deal to award either aspect of the franchise needs the approval of both the Senate and the General Assembly, and the award is expected to go through a contentious political process over the next several months. NYRA’s franchise to operate the tracks expires at the end of this year.

Delaware North was previously a partner in Empire Racing Associates, a group bidding for the rights to operate both the tracks and the casino. Delaware North dropped out of Empire last week.

Mohegan Sun is still a partner in Capital Play, another bidding group, and the release from Spitzer’s administration said that the expression by Mohegan Sun was being made with the "consent and support of Capital Play."