New York state has squandered roughly $3 billion due to its inability to get a video slot machine palace — approved by the Legislature nearly a decade ago — opened at Aqueduct Racetrack. By the end of this month, the state Lottery Division is supposed to make the long-awaited decision to pick a vendor to get the racino up and running, but the vendor that Lottery officials disqualified earlier this year with little explanation — and that subsequently submitted yet another bid — has sued the state; and on Monday, Supreme Court Justice Barry Kramer halted the latest selection process, in which all but a single bidder has been eliminated.
That’s not good news for the state, which desperately needs the VLT cash for its own coffers, as well as those of the near-bankrupt New York Racing Association.
At first, Kramer even barred the Lottery from continuing its review of the sole remaining bidder in this latest round, a Malaysian-based investment firm known as Genting New York. But Thursday, he reportedly said the review could continue, pending the outcome of a court hearing next Friday. The change of heart offers a glimmer of hope that the latest deadline established by Gov. David Paterson for awarding the racino contract can be met.
The suit was filed by Aqueduct Entertainment Company — known as Aqueduct Entertainment Group when it was picked by Paterson in January. But a couple of months later, the Lottery Division disqualified the bid, without really stating why. There were allegations that the selection process had been influenced by Paterson’s personal friendships with some AEC investors, but in its suit, AEC claimed that the rules had been unfairly changed partway through the bidding process by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Getting to the bottom of AEC’s claim may not be easy, but Kramer should try to do so, and render a decision, as quickly as possible. To prolong a suit that may have only been motivated by a desire for political payback, would be an injustice to taxpayers who’ll have to bear the burden of still-longer delays in opening the racino.