While the New York Racing Association continues to fend off criticism in one form or another, Las Vegas gaming entrepreneur Shawn Scott is going forward with his plans for video lottery machines at Vernon Downs, the upstate New York trotting track.
Scott, who with Vestin Mortgage, has invested $23 million in Mid-State Raceway, will construct a 32,000 square-foot, free standing building next to the Vernon County Suites Hotel to house between 1,100 and 1,200 gaming devices.
Apparently, this was Scott’s goal”¦to beat everybody to the VLT promotion.
"We’ve made it known from the start," Hoolae Paoa, president and CEO of Mid-State Racing, recently said, "that we’d like to be the first track in the state to go for the new machines.
The struggling harness racing facility, saved from being padlocked by an infusion of some $9 million by Scott, is expected to gross around $80 million a year with the slots operation.
NYRA, granted the opportunity to install slot machines at the much larger Aqueduct thoroughbred racetrack, has chosen MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) to operate the slots, but the operation is not expected to begin before sometime in early 2004. Meanwhile, NYRA’s chairman, Barry Schwartz, is being called upon to explain criticisms being leveled at the non-profit New York track operator.
At first, it was a detailed report filed by the attorney general charging a variety of crimes from money laundering to stealing from the betting public. And, last week, the Albany Times Union newspaper focused on a privately negotiated contract involving a former manager who was granted a monthly stipend of $7,000 a month for five years. When asked about the agreement, current president Terry Meyocks was quoted as saying the agreement was strictly between NYRA trustees and former CEO Kenny Noe.
Upon hearing about the Meyocks’ response, Schwartz stepped in to acknowledge that NYRA indeed was conducting business that should be open to the public and that the trustees, in negotiating agreements, are definitely well aware that they are conducting the public’s business. He closed by saying he believed the company’s consulting agreement with Noe was properly negotiated.