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Queens Chronicle

Mid-summer opening for Aqueduct — Genting

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Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011 12:00 am

The gaming facility at Aqueduct Race Track, expected to generate at least $300 million in annual state revenue, will open its doors this summer, according to officials with franchise operator Genting New York, who last Friday met with Chronicle staff to discuss construction progress, structural amenities and the economic viability of the long-awaited project.

Demolition and remediation are underway on Resorts World New York, with approximately 400 people now working at the site. The first phase of the three-stage opening process will feature 1,600 video lottery terminals, the central bar and entertainment aspects.

Though the initial wager on the electronic versions of slots, baccarat and roulette was expected to be placed six months after last October’s ceremonial groundbreaking, RWNY President Michael Speller assured, “full speed ahead is where we’re at,” later adding that Genting “has a long history of being able to deliver quickly.”

To that end, Speller noted phase two has been expedited to be completed shortly after the first one. At the close of the second stage, all 4,500 VLTs will be up and running, as well as restaurants and a 2,200-vehicle parking garage. Phase three, which will mark the culmination of the project, calls for exterior improvements, New York Racing Association improvements and the unveiling of the skybridge, and should be completed some time early next year. JCJ Architecture Inc. sketched Genting’s vision.

“It’s a design that’s got everything it needs to have,” said Speller, who brings 35 years of experience in the gaming industry to RWNY, most recently as president of Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut.

The three-floor facility in South Ozone Park will boast high-end and national-franchise eateries, and parking for more than 5,000 vehicles. A portion of the 3rd floor will be available to host large events, such as fashion shows and conferences.

“We’re thrilled to be here in Queens,” he related. “We’ll work really hard to fit into the community.”

Genting, which paid the state $380 million up front to develop at Aqueduct, has forecasted 1,373 construction jobs and 836 permanent union positions for the racino, with most of those coming in the finance and food and beverage divisions. The building trades benefitting most from the project will be carpenters, fitters and plumbers, electricians and laborers. Tutor Perini Corp. was awarded the construction contract in September.

Speller characterized RWNY, Genting’s showcase entry into gaming in the U.S, as a day trip destination and evening entertainment venue. The $38 billion company is counting on the racino, which will operate seven days and 20 hours a day, to attract tourists and travelers, in addition to borough customers.

“We’re very, very close to JFK [International Airport], which has 55 million people a year,” Speller said. “That’s a great market for us. It will be a piece of business you would not ordinarily get in the State of New York. It generates a lot of taxes for the state from a customer who was actually in transit.”

The plan is for shuttle buses to pick up and drop off consumers who have lengthy layovers in the airport. Speller also said that buses “leaving from destinations yet to be determined” will ship Big Apple visitors staying in Manhattan hotels to the facility.

Asked for the possible effects of Gov. Paterson’s recent awarding of a contract to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians to build a casino in the Catskills, Speller said that from a competitive perspective, the pact does not foster a “level playing field,” as tribes pay significantly lower gaming taxes.

“The VLTs will contribute well over a billion dollars to the state in taxes,” he noted. “From the state’s standpoint, [the Catskills casino] is a significant threat to the tax base coming in from the VLTs.”

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