|By Howard Stutz, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 5, 2009--Wynn Resorts Ltd. has pulled out of the bidding process to operate a potentially lucrative casino at the historic Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City.
The surprise move Wednesday left five bidders competing for the right to operate 4,500 slot machine-like video lottery terminals at Aqueduct.
The prolonged process, which began earlier this year, is expected to be completed in the next few weeks. New York Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders are expected to select the winning bidder.
Five groups and partnerships, each with a casino operation component, are bidding for the Aqueduct license.
Wynn was the only solo bidder and reportedly had the most expensive project. However, Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn publicly said the casino wouldn't open until 2011.
New York leaders have said they want the casino to open by next year. Last week, Paterson sent a letter to the bidders asking each to provide proof it can pay the state $200 million upfront within 30 days of being selected.
In a statement released by a New York public relations firm, Wynn Resorts said it was confident the state would "find a qualified operator to meet its needs at Aqueduct."
The potential to operate a gambling facility in Queens, less than 15 miles from Manhattan, attracted some of the gaming industry's elite companies, including MGM Mirage, Harrah's Entertainment, Hard Rock Entertainment, Penn National Gaming and Larry Woolf's Navegante Group.
Because of its proximity to New York City, bidders said they weren't going to build a traditional racino.
"This is not going to be a box with slot machines. This is going to be a destination resort," Woolf said in May.
His company is part of the Aqueduct Entertainment Group bid, which also includes an ex-U.S. congressman turned minister whose congregation includes Queens.
Earlier this week, Penn National said it reached a community relations agreement with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons' Rush Communications of New York City and the framework of a labor agreement with the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO.Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871.
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