Reporting Kathryn Brown
NEW YORK (CBS 2 / WCBS 880) – State and city officials are gambling on a big return from the new Aqueduct “racino” in Queens — but it’s a good bet that the controversy surrounding the project will continue long after Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony.
As CBS 2′s Kathryn Brown reports, the casino is on track to open in the spring – with at least 1,600 video lottery terminals, and another 3,000 within the next six months.
There’s an ongoing state investigation, however, into whether the bidding process was fixed. Gov. David Paterson said the controversy over the bidding process and the rewarding of the first, now void, contract in the end turned out to be a good thing.
“This project was entirely clean and free of taint because I reorganized the way the Aqueduct VLT bid would be processed,” Paterson said. “We went back to the standard procurement rules that the state already followed.”
Paterson and several other politicians were at the groundbreaking, as the construction begins on the long-awaiting raceway and casino.
A core group who worked behind the scenes to get the project off and running were to be noticeably absent, however.
Democratic conference leader John Sampson and Senate President Malcolm Smith, among others, are the target of last Thursday’s scathing report by the state’s Inspector General, Joseph Fisch, who charges that they waged a campaign of leaks and secret lobbying to fix the multi-billion dollar contract.
The project is expected to generate $1 million a day for the state, and create 2,100 jobs. Residents feel the “racino” will revitalize Ozone Park and state officials believe the project will save both aqueduct and racing in the state.