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Paterson hopes to find Aqueduct casino operator soon

ALBANY - Gov. David A. Paterson said Monday that a new operator for the slotlike gambling machines at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens can be found within the next month.

He said there was no need to repeat the months-long process that selected Delaware North Cos. and then Aqueduct Entertainment Group, both of which failed to complete a deal with the state. Delaware North dropped out when it couldn't raise the $370-million up-front licensing fee, while some of AEG's investors were rejected by the Lottery Division.

Lottery officials torpedoed AEG last week, costing New York the $300 million it had hoped to use to help close a $9-billion budget deficit.

"We are hopeful to find a procedure that would work within a month . . . that would yield the resources in this budget process," Paterson said in White Plains.

He also said he hadn't yet been interviewed by the state inspector general, who is probing how AEG was selected.

The casino operator must be approved by Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic chief. The legislative chiefs said Monday they would work with Paterson to choose another operator in a timely manner.

John McArdle, an aide to Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the minority leader, again called for a "public vetting of the bidders" in a hearing.

Separately Monday, Paterson predicted the April 1 deadline for adopting a new budget would be missed, in part because the legislature won't be meeting during the Passover and Easter holidays.

"I'm thinking of a date one month from now," he said in upstate Hawthorne.With Elizabeth Moore

and Reid Epstein

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