After an initial deal fell apart amidst controversy and allegations of political favoritism, state officials will soon start searching for a new company to operate video slot machines at the Aqueduct Racetrack. Unlike the previous round of bidding that ended with Gov. Paterson's selection of the Aqueduct Entertainment Group, this time the Governor's office will actually establish a set criteria that will be used to judge applicants. "We want to limit the leaders' involvement," a Paterson official told the Daily News.
The new selection process would function more like a normal state bid, with the Lottery Division reviewing applicants and choosing the one that offers "the best value," the Governor's office source said. Then, legislative leaders and Paterson's staff would review the research to see if they can achieve "concurrence." Senate Democratic leader John Sampson says it would be better for officials to quickly select one of the bidders that lost out on the previous round of applications, so the state can collect $300 million in licensing fees needed to balance the budget. Aqueduct Entertainment Group plans to contest the state's decision to begin searching for a new casino operator.
Despite the tumultuous bidding process, companies are eager to operate 4,500 video slot machines in the Queens facility—and that's not just because the winning bidder is expected to make about $180 million per year. According to the Times, gaming experts think video slot machines are a sign that legalized gambling might come to the region, and casino companies want a foot in the door. "Sure, they'd like to have a full-fledged casino ultimately," said gambling opponent state Sen. Frank Padavan. "The people who are in this business are in the business to milk it for all it's worth."