Wynn on track for Aqueduct racino

Sep 15, 2009 5:03 PM
Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener |

Planned racino could have up to 4,500 slots

Steve Wynn is seen as the favorite to get the right to operate 4,500 slots at Aqueduct, the 115-year-old New York City landmark and casino-in-the-making that is a subway ride away from some eight million people.

The Wynn Resorts chairman and New York’s Aqueduct racetrack in the south Queens may not appear to be the most natural of marriages, but who can argue with the chance to set up shop in New York City and then see what may spring from future legislative action.

It’s an opportunity that has Wynn talking about re-inventing the racino concept. Of course, he first has to get the bid and although he is seen as the favorite, according to a well-placed source, this is a decision that will be based on the best thinking of a group of politicians.

Which means everything is subject to change with very little notice, but Wynn’s recent tireless effort to sell his vision and reach into his company’s very deep pockets without having to go through a complicated borrowing process has probably helped his case.

"We’ve got the money," he said during a recent interview. "There is no need to borrow anything from anyone."

But Wynn is not the only well-credentialed gaming industry heavyweight taking a shot at all the potential offered by Aqueduct. The usual cast of big names is present along with partners selected just for this occasion: MGM MIRAGE, Harrah’s, Penn National, Larry Woolf’s Navegante Group and the Seminoles with their Hard Rock brand.

Wynn’s plan, as he recently explained it, is to take the plain vanilla racino concept, add a liberal dose of imagination and shape it into something that goes beyond most current thinking, making (Aqueduct) a fun place to spend time at, even for people who do not play slots.

What he envisions is, "A place that integrates food and beverage and retail and entertainment and makes it fun to go to, even if you are not a video lottery terminal player, a place that is a compliment to its neighborhood, a fun and exciting location for recreational activities."

Tax rates don’t get any more onerous than the 60 to 70 percent sliding scale state levy that will be the price of doing business at Aqueduct, but there are reportedly allowances written into the deal for development and marketing.

Well-connected sources believe the number of slots Aqueduct can operate will he increased to some unknown number in excess of 4,500 as the situation evolves, which it seems certain to do. There’s a lot of room for imagination and power politics to roam at Aqueduct, considering the complex has nearly 200 acres.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Phil Hevener