With firmly grounded and well-founded doubt that the long-delayed video lottery terminal facility at Aqueduct will ever be completed, the government of New York State has again turned its attention to Belmont Park.

Ridiculous, perhaps, but a study suggests that two casinos about six miles apart is a good idea. The report, which deals only in broad generalities and suppositions, supports what most believe was a foregone conclusion, since Gov. David Paterson – the man who would tax soda -- beneath whom the report’s authors serve, is on record in support of the absolutely blasphemous concept of a casino at Belmont. The facility, under terms of last year’s franchise deal with NYRA, is owned by the state. The state owns the track at Saratoga, too. What defamation is in the future there?

The Belmont study, the work of Empire State Development president Marisa Lago and New York State Racing and Wagering Board chairman John Sabini, is unlikely to serve a greater purpose, since Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls the fate of bills in the Democratic-run House, has opposed the concept. Then again, we’re dealing with Albany, where anything can happen, none of it good.

“Belmont Park is an enormous asset for economic development in New York," Paterson said in a statement. "I commend all of the participants for their thoughtful analysis and commitment to the Belmont Park redevelopment study recommendations. In these times of fiscal crisis, it’s important that we move forward with projects like Belmont, which can create new jobs, generate additional tax revenue, and bolster economic development in the surrounding communities in Nassau and Queens Counties.”

Yeah, right.

The chosen operator of the Aqueduct facility, Delaware North, has been unsuccessful in financing the development amidst the current credit climate and without concessions will likely balk at going forward under threat of state-supported nearby competition. So, Patterson’s stance on Belmont is likely to further delay the Aqueduct project, the beginning of which has disappeared beyond the horizon.

Excelsior indeed. – PM