Aqueduct Casino on the Fast Track

By the end of summer, New Yorkers won’t have far to go for a little gambling. Last Thursday, Genting announced its condensed opening schedule for the Aqueduct Racetrack casino, Resorts World New York.

The opening would end a nearly decade-long process of vendor after vendor failing to bring a casino to Aqueduct.

“The VLT’s at Aqueduct are long overdue,” said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park), who has been a vocal advocate for a casino. “Genting and Resort World New York have proven their commitment to our community by expediting the opening.”

Pheffer also said jobs provided by the casino would benefit the entire community, and that she is eager to visit the casino herself.

Resorts World expects to have approximately 1,000 employees in entertainment, hospitality, security and foodservice.

Under the new schedule, the casino will open with 2,500 Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs), rather than the originally planned 1,600.

The opening has been condensed into two phases, rather than three. The first phase includes the 2,500 VLTs, an international café, a seven-outlet food court, a bar and entertainment space called The 360, and a grab-and-go quick food outlet. A parking garage and main entry will also be built in phase one.

Phase two—set to be complete by the end of 2011—will add 2,000 VLTs, two fine-dining restaurants called Genting Palace and RW Prime, a lounge and an additional VIP casino, as well as another bar, with views of the first floor entertainment area. The adjacent A-train platform will also be connected to Aqueduct via a skybridge.

“This accelerated schedule will allow for … a more robust opening and better customer experience with more food and beverage facilities than previously planned,” said Mike Speller, president of Resorts World New York Casino.

The announcement came just days after a Chinatown based discount bus returning from Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut crashed on I-95, killing 15. Nevertheless, Resorts World Spokesperson Stefan Friedman said the tragic accident had nothing to do with the schedule changes.

“We plan on having the opening of this facility be a major event that will showcase not only this casino but the borough of Queens and the City of New York,” Freidman said. “Having more than half of the VLTs on line on opening day will help achieve the sensational opening.”

The contentious selection process to find a casino vendor was fraught with delays. Since 2001, when VLTs were approved for the Aqueduct Racetrack, there have been four selection processes. Last summer the state approved the final bid, from Genting, to operate the casino. The previous bid, from Aqueduct Entertainment Group, is still under investigation after the State Inspector General released a report condemning the practices used to select the bidder in 2009.

State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) has met with Genting once a month since construction began to hear about their progress and said he was especially impressed when work was halted only a few days during the winter snowstorms.

“Their intent to open up on time was always there,” Addabbo said. “They have a strong drive to do what they’ve always told the community they would.”

Betty Braton, chair of Community Board 10, said she has also been impressed with Genting’s commitment to the neighborhood and borough.

“We’re also pleased Resorts World will be able to complete the full facility sooner than expected,” Braton said. “Clearly, the accelerated construction schedule demonstrates the ability of both Resorts World and its contractor to deliver.”

The integration of Resorts World with racing is another important aspect of the casino project, she said.

“Resorts World is demonstrating its commitment to the future of racing by its sponsorship of Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial—through a financial commitment increasing the race’s purse and by adding its name to this important racing event,” she said.

The Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial will take place on April 9.

By David Harvey



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