Albany's latest attempt to cash in a multimillion-dollar ticket for racino revenues never got out of the starting gate. The Paterson administration scratched its award of a lucrative electronic slots contract to Aqueduct Entertainment Group after the bidding process was exposed as hopelessly flawed and blatantly political.

After weeks of pounding criticism, AEG was officially rejected when some of the big names in its proposal refused to submit to background checks, while others were caught up in a related federal criminal investigation. The track record from this round demands the state field an entirely new card of bidders, not just pick some also-rans.

Before it starts anew, however, the state must first re-examine its stubborn insistence that video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Raceway are the best bet. Whether it's a simple racino or a full casino, the odds to get the most revenue are better at Belmont Park. Its ideal location and spacious setting can make it a big entertainment destination. Belmont advocates Sens. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) need to work together to get it in the running.

While the state is hungry for the $300-million, upfront VLT fee to plug its current budget gap, waiting may be wiser. The Shinnecock Nation is looking to locate a full-scale casino between its tribal land in Southampton and New York City. A cut from that would make the VLT pot look like penny ante.hN