Aqueduct a deal gone wrong
Feb 09, 2010 | 7328 views | 0 0 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the wake of Governor David Paterson’s failure to pass an Ethics Reform Bill, the state’s decision to name Aqueduct Entertainment Group as the franchise to run a multi-billion dollar windfall gaming business at the Ozone Park racetrack has activists scratching their heads. The word came down from Albany last week that Paterson chose the small company, which he claimed had "community support."

Speculation has arisen that this company is under-funded, and - compared to the other bids for the Aqueduct Racetrack concession - AEG may have been the least desirable and lowest rated of the six contenders. However, AEG may have been the most connected.

Assembly Sheldon Speaker leaked that AEG was not the highest bidder, so we have to ask, did they have the best idea? The governor's office said that AEG was not a favorite early on. So did they have better access to the bidding process? The answer is yes.

What most of us know about the gambling industry is that we pop a quarter in a machine and pull the lever and maybe walk away with some cash. We throw a few bucks on the table and pray for a blackjack. What does Reverend Floyd Flake (a shareholder in the AEG Company) know about the business of gaming?

What he knows is how to protest if his congregation doesn’t get its share - and be considered the "community support" that the state is so "concerned" about. Community support in this case means getting friends on the inside track to get the contract. Does State Senator President Malcolm Smith have the inside track?

Well, according to a report in New York Magazine, the Darman Group was listed as a co-developer with AEG. Darmen Group is owned by Darryl Greene, a former partner of Smith. Greene reportedly pleaded guilty in 1999 to fraud in connection with billing city agencies $500,000 in fees connected to hospital projects.

Gee, what a surprise – political corruption surrounding a gambling operation. But this reaches new depths of irresponsibility in an attempt to create a candy store for friends and political supporters. Reports indicate that in the few weeks before the decision there was a donation frenzy from people with ties to the bidding companies. It’s just so wrong.

Bringing casino-style gambling to Aqueduct Racetrack should not be so difficult. There are those companies who have "made their bones" in the gambling business while others (AEG) were still going out with cheerleaders. Steve Winn, MGM, and Delaware North are top-notch organizations with much more experience in an industry where a great deal can go wrong.

How can the community favor one bid over the other anyway? Is there any expertise that one company offers over another when it comes to the community? And besides, nobody outside the political circle was allowed to see the proposals.

It appears these bigger companies were enticed to bid just to make the process appear on the up and up, so Paterson and other politicians could give the lucrative contract to their friends.

What we (the community) want is a professionally run gaming operation that is free of organized crime, doesn’t produce street crime in the surrounding neighborhood, and creates well-paying jobs for people who live in the area.

Competitive bidding and good government just went out the window on this deal, and we demand an investigation and a public release of the bids and records. The community can have no faith that this was done fairly – and more important – that we have the most qualified operator to handle all the related business of almost 4,500 video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park.

The real crime is that we waited a decade for this.

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