New York State Inspector General Joseph Fisch released a report today accusing the state Senate leaders of manipulating the competitive bidding process of who would be selected to win the franchise for the video slot machine concession at Aqueduct Racetrack, the first casino operation in New York City.
According to Fisch “This process was doomed from the start, and at each turn, our state leaders abdicated their public duty, failed to impose ethical restraints and focused on political gain at a cost of millions to New Yorkers,” said Inspector General Joseph Fisch. “Shamefully, the public’s best interest was a matter of militant indifference to them.”
The report claims that John L. Sampson, the Senate Democratic leader, Malcolm A. Smith, the Senate president and Angelo Aponte, the appointed Senate secretary, were implicated in the failed process marked by leaked information and favoritism to a troubled bidder. The bidder, called the Aqueduct Entertainment Group, had political ties and reportedly made donations at the behest of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
Following the selection of AEG, complaints of favoritism surfaced, and the decision was reversed by Gov. David Paterson. The casino is now being built by Genting New York, a division of an international entertainment company, who has already paid an upfront fee of $380 million. The franchise is estimated to gross $1.5 million in revenues each day, and worth tens of millions of dollars annually to the operator.
The inspector general’s office is planning on referring its findings to state and federal prosecutors for violations of laws governing public officials.