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New York told to take lessons from Kansas on slots

Dec 23, 2008 5:04 PM
Industry Insider by Ray Poirier | Officials at MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM) thought that being the early bird in the pitch for the slot machines at Aqueduct racetrack would help them catch the worm. But they didn’t realize what it was like to do business with New York State politicians.

After being bounced around for a couple of years, MGM threw in the towel, never to enter the fray again.

And it took about five years or so before the politicos got their act together and awarded the Aqueduct slot machine franchise to Delaware North Corp.

One of the victims of the Aqueduct contract debacle was Mohegan Sun, the Native American tribe that successfully runs one of the world’s most successful casinos on its Connecticut reservation and also has been hugely successful with a racino in Pennsylvania.

They failed in their pitch for the Aqueduct license but they obviously learned how to play the game.

Last week, New York Gov. David Paterson presented a $121 billion budget that included revenue from a slots operation at Belmont Park. Since Belmont Park is only eight miles away from Aqueduct, there are a number of state politicians that oppose such a move.

One of the opponents is Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. To those who monitored the seven-year wait for an Aqueduct license, the name Silver repeatedly came up when the legislature was blamed for failing to take action.

Before Mohegan Sun leadership enters the bidding process, however, it wants the state to establish a well-defined selection process.

"We clearly believe that we would be a great operator based on our extensive knowledge of the market and our experience," said Mohegan’s Mitchell Etess.

"There was no clearly defined process for Aqueduct, however," he wrote.

And, besides, he said, "we still haven’t gotten any official correspondence saying that we didn’t get the (Aqueduct) bid."

Etess suggested New York pick up pointers from Kansas where "everything was public, everything was spelled out."

His concerns may be premature since powerhouse Silver still hasn’t signed on to the Belmont proposal.