Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bidders on New York Racino Stacked with Indians

By Ken Davison

Six groups have submitted bids for the franchise to operate up to 4,500 video lottery terminals, which are similar to slot machines, at New York´s Aqueduct Race Track.

Among the six groups are entities controlled by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes. Two tribes in New York, the Shinnecock and Seneca, have also applied for the franchise. Some of these tribes have partnered with other companies in their proposals. The Shinnecocks said they would drop their plans for a Long Island, N.Y. casino if they are selected to run the Aqueduct gaming.

In early September, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer recommended that New York Racing Association (NYRA) be awarded a franchise to conduct thoroughbred racing at the state-owned facilities at Aqueduct Race Course, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Raceway. The Mohegan Tribe and its partner, Capital Play, had submitted one of the rejected bids.

After the selection of NYRA to continue running the race tracks, Governor Spitzer said, “After careful consideration, I concluded that a reconstituted NYRA is the best entity to operate thoroughbred racing in New York State. The state, in consultation with NYRA, will choose an experienced gaming operator to operate the VLT franchise at Aqueduct. This will ensure that we have the best possible operator for both the racing and the gaming franchise.” The governor announced that he would re-bid the gaming aspect of the franchise and asked that new proposals be submitted by October 15th.

Along with the four tribes, Delaware North Companies Gaming & Entertainment and their partner, Saratoga Gaming and Raceway submitted a proposal as well as Greenwood Racing Incorporated. Other groups expressed their continued interest in running both the tracks and the gaming at Aqueduct but did not respond to the bid deadline earlier this week for the gaming franchise at Aqueduct.

The Mohegans formed a company called Mohegan Gaming, LLC specifically for the purpose of bidding on the Aqueduct gaming franchise. Mohegan Gaming is a subsidiary of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA).

The Mohegans originally partnered with Capital Play in their original proposal for the racing and gaming franchise. Mohegan officials and spokespeople for Capital Play have been publically critical of the governor over his selection of NYRA since his recommendation was made in September. Continuing in their criticism of the governor, Mohegan Sun casino officials told The Day newspaper this week that they would rather see Spitzer reverse his granting of the bid for the three race tracks to the New York Racing Association and give it to the Mohegans and Capital Play.

According to state law, New York´s legislature must approve the winner of the franchise, which is set to begin on January 1st. Republicans in the state Senate have proposed that a separate commission be set up to select vendors and manage the race tracks.