We haven't paid much attention to the bidding process over at the Aqueduct in eastern Queens near Jamaica, because the proposals for the slumping state-owned track involve casino gambling, and our local leaders are not the biggest fans. We didn't want to get our hopes up, being the degenerate gamblers we are. But things have changed, and the state could really use the money, so the Times reports today that the "racino" plan?horse racing and 4,500 video gambling machines?is being fast-tracked, no pun intended. And holy crap, what a development this would be. There are three bids remaining, all of varying degrees of ambition, but one thing is clear: a major entertainment complex/debauched gambling den will most likely open just 21 A-Train stops from Manhattan! Could this be the end of those annoying Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods commercials?! Out of sheer excitement, we headed over to the Aqueduct's website to find out exactly where this thing is. If the trippy map doesn't disorient you enough, the various proposals certainly will.
Of the three bids, it appears that the frontrunner is Manhattan megalandlord SL Green's joint proposal with Hard Rock. The offer is $250 million in licensing fees and $130 million in construction. A temporary gambling floor would open by the end of the year while the overhaul gets underway, and the second phase of development would include a Hard Rock Cafe (yay?). This bid is especially intriguing because the Hard Rock brand is associated with the young, so the old-timey track regulars will probably be sent running to the hills. Anybody who has been to the Hard Rock casino/resort in South Florida knows what we're talking about.
A second bid is led by the Mohegan tribe, looking to protect themselves over the dent in Mohegan Sun business that would result in a casino near the city. The upfront bid is low ($100 million licensing fee), but the massive plan calls for a $700 million Mohegan Sun-like destination, complete with resort, mall and entertainment venues. Extell is a partner on this plan, and they are certainly hoping it goes better than their Atlantic Yards bid. Said one executive involved: "There will be good-quality restaurants, nightclubs. We want it to be J.F.K.’s waiting room." That's a good thing?
Last is the bid from Delaware North, owned by a Buffalo family that operates the racino?a term we will never get tired of?in Saratoga Springs. They are offering a whopping $370 million licensing fee and a more scaled-back redevelopment with a "large parking deck." The quote: "It’s going to have a lot of electricity, a lot of lights and a lot of entertainment. It’s going to feel like a place you want to be." Good, because we hate being held against our will in Queens.
So who decides? The "three wise men" who run everything. Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate majority leader Joe Bruno will hold one of their secret meetings and determine which proposal bribed them the most?er, offers the "biggest benefit to the state." The selection process is, naturally, private. Until then, we are saving up our quarters and working out our lever-pulling arm.
· Short on Cash, State Hastens Plan for Casino in City [NYT]
· Queens Casino Escorted to Back Room, Hands Hammered [Curbed]