New York City set to get first casino

Oct 24, 2008 12:30 AM

by Kevin Stott |

On Wednesday, the New York state Senate ended a longtime stalemate and gave the privately held Delaware North company of Buffalo the rights to develop and run New York City’s first and only legal casino The Buffalo News reported.

The proposed $250 million casino, which will be built at Aqueduct Racetrack in the borough of Queens, will have 4,500 slot machines. The contract will create 1,500 jobs in Queens and another 50 at Delaware North’s corporate headquarters in Buffalo.

For the Empire State, the decision is expected to generate around $1 million in slot machine revenue sharing annually when the casino is completed in 15 months, in late 2009.

The longtime stalemate was broken in Albany when Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos revealed that he was backing the bid by Delaware North after getting support from Serpin Maltese, a key Queens Senate Republican. Maltese, who represents the track, had previously raised objections about the bid as he felt it wasn’t sweeping enough in its plans to try and make the casino a destination-type resort.

"Delaware North responded to the concerns voiced by Queens community residents and has provided more detailed information and a commitment to develop the areas surrounding the track to ensure that Aqueduct becomes a destination venue with quality retail, business, hotel, conference and entertainment facilities," said Maltese in a statement. "With this commitment in hand, the Senate will agree to the selection of Delaware North so this important project can go forward."

Recently, Gov. David A. Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver approved the bid by Delaware North. But backing by Skelos was the big sticking point and his aides reportedly said he now agrees with the selection of Delaware North.

Just a few weeks back, Skelos was quoted as saying that Delaware North’s plan "does not include an economic development proposal that would be a great benefit in the long run." The Senate majority leader then met with Delaware North representatives in Buffalo and urged them to work with community leaders and politicians in Queens to help iron out any concerns about the bid.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 2001, racetracks were approved for casinos as a way to bring revenues to the state. While Delaware North’s overall development plans were far less ambitious than other bidders, the company offered the most – $370 million – in terms of an upfront payment to the state in terms of operating rights.

The new casino is projected to generate approximately $500 million annually in net revenue and will hopefully generate tens of millions of dollars for the New York Racing Association, the operator of Aqueduct Racetrack.