ALBANY - Democrats have ignored Belmont Park, state Sen. Dean Skelos said Tuesday in criticizing the selection of a consortium to run slot-like gambling machines at the nearby Aqueduct horse-racing track in Queens.
Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has long tried to make Aqueduct's video lottery terminals contingent on improvements at Belmont. But Gov. David A. Paterson and leaders of the legislature's Democratic majorities said the Elmont track isn't authorized for such terminals and is in better shape, with better attendance and finances than Aqueduct.
Skelos was responding to Friday's selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group to operate VLTs at Aqueduct. "There has been absolutely nothing in terms of Belmont. It's been ignored," he said.
State Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic chief, shot back that legislation authorizing VLTs for Belmont hasn't been adopted while Aqueduct gained approval in 2001. "This is about revenue coming to the state, creating construction jobs."
Aqueduct Entertainment is expected to pay a $300-million upfront fee to the state. Consortium representatives couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has opposed VLTs at Belmont, declined to comment on Skelos' criticisms.
Paterson commissioned a study of improvements to Belmont, but aides said the state has no money for implementation.
The New York Racing Association, operator of Belmont and Aqueduct, had threatened to cancel the Belmont Stakes, a leg in the Triple Crown, if action wasn't taken on 4,500 VLTs for the Queens racecourse. That threat and NYRA's finances are the subject of a Senate hearing Wednesday at the Elmont Memorial Library, starting at 11 a.m.
State Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington), who is holding the hearing, blasted Skelos, saying he hadn't mentioned Belmont in months. "If you want to be in this process, stop the rhetoric and start working with me on this issue." Both senators represent surrounding neighborhoods.