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Casino applicants' curious questions - Newsday

Musings on dollars and nonsense

After more than six months, the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board finally released the first round of questions from potential applicants for the three downstate casino licenses — and its answers.


The release of the 613 questions and answers ended months of anticipation, especially for Long Islanders involved in the process who had awaited detailed and interesting insight.


But many of the questions — and answers — weren’t particularly detailed or insightful.


Take the first question.


“Please clarify the format criteria for submission, and address whether a combination of 8.5 x 11 and 11 x 17 page sizes are acceptable?”


The answer: The board prefers 8 ½ x 11, but data and drawings can be larger.


Then look at the fourth question.


“If the Return Date or Supplement Return Date are days on which New York State observes Eastern Standard Time, are the deadlines 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time?”


Yep.


Then there’s the question about a spelling error.


And this is what took six months?


There are nuggets of real information — on finances, background checks, the development proposals, the details within the Request for Applications, or RFA, that kicked off the gaming selection effort, the process itself and the board’s standards.


For instance, when an applicant asks about whether its “minimum capital investment” should exclude government or state subsidies, the board’s answer is illuminating.


“While nothing in statute or the RFA directly prevents use of applicable State and local economic development programs, a factor for the graded RFA evaluation is economic impact, and a subsidized application will likely illustrate diminished economic impacts when competitively evaluated,” the board writes.


In other words: Don’t use state subsidies.


Several answers about Yonkers and Aqueduct, which have video lottery terminals, make clear those sites have to submit the same detailed responses as anyone else, and that the board will make decisions “without regard” to whether they have VLTs now.


Another question asked about existing video lottery gaming facilities “in Yonkers and Flushing.”


“Note that there is no VLG facility in Flushing,” the response said.


The board clarifies that approval from the community advisory committee, or CAC — a group of residents to be chosen for each applicant who will have to give their go-ahead — will run concurrently to the zoning process. The zoning timeline is left open-ended; the board says only it “will establish a reasonable deadline.”


The board clarifies the state’s role, too.


“Will the State override local zoning to permit a casino use?” one questioner asks.


“No,” the board answers.


It's clear the board isn’t looking for simple answers from the applicants.


“Applicants are encouraged to submit the most detailed information possible,” one answer notes.


There also are questions that now seem irrelevant — ones that even the board seems to laugh about.


“In previous RFPs, the Commission took between two and four weeks to respond to questions. Does the Commission believe it will take a similar amount of time in this process?”


Answer: “Obviously, no.”


The release of the Q&A started the clock again, giving applicants until Oct. 6 to submit a second round of questions. Then the board again has no deadline by which to answer them.


Do we know how long that will take?


Obviously, no.


— Randi F. Marshall randi.marshall@newsday.com

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