Moving past the ‘racino’ idea, Genting contemplates the elimination of racing at Aqueduct

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Resorts World New York has proposed building a $4 billion convention center on land it leases from New York State at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. It has also discussed eliminating the racetrack element of the Aqueduct altogether.

As part of the ongoing discussions within the Malaysian gambling giant Genting, of which Resorts World is a subsidiary, there is talk of seeking to relocate the horse-racing that now takes place at Aqueduct Racetrack to Belmont, according to someone who has been briefed by Genting.

Relocating the racetrack (which, in itself, is an idea that predates the arrival of Genting in New York) would give Genting substantially more room on which to build its proposed $4 billion, 3.8-million-square-foot convention center, as well as up to 3,000 hotel rooms. It would also serve as a way to make up for whatever casino gambling revenue Belmont loses if Genting succeeds in getting casino-gambling exclusivity in the metropolitan region, as the company is reportedly seeking, and which a gambling-industry source told me is the case.

So what began as a proposed "racino" (racetrack plus slot-machine casino) would end up being a full-blown casino.

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Right now, proper casino gambling, with human dealers, is illegal in New York State outside of Indian reservations. However, electronic gambling, in the form of video slot machines and the like, is permitted in select locations. Resorts World recently opened a massive warehouse filled with video slot machines adjacent to the Aqueduct Racetrack. But the company has also been lobbying aggressively, and with some success, to get regular casino gambling legalized in New York State.

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the legalization of casino gambling in his recent state of the state address, and both leaders of the state legislature have indicated support for some form of legalized gambling. The legalization process, however, is a long haul, entailing a constitutional amendment, which, in turn, requires the approval of two succcessive state legislatures and a statewide referendum.

Genting spokesman Stefan Friedman said, in a statement, "We are continuing to work out the final details of our arrangement with the state and Port Authority, and are very much looking forward to bringing this much-needed, state of the art convention center—along with tens of thousands of new jobs, and untold billions in tax revenue—to New York."

Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for the governor, declined to comment, as did the New York Racing Association, which runs both the Aqueduct and Belmont racetracks.