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Mohegan Sun joins bidder for New York racing 7-07

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Mohegan Sun, which operates one of the world's most successful casinos in Connecticut, has formed a partnership with one of the bidders hoping to run thoroughbred racing in New York state.

The Indian tribal company has teamed up with Capital Play in seeking the 20-year franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga race tracks.

“They're a fantastic partner, obviously a great success,” said Karl O'Farrell, chief executive officer of Capital Play. “We're very pleased to have them as our partner. They have one of the best casino operations in the world.”

Capital Play, which helped revive Australian racing, says Mohegan Sun would help in its efforts to revive horse racing in New York by making the tracks entertainment destinations as well as gambling operations. O'Farrell said that could include night clubs, comedy and top restaurants.

Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, said papers forming the partnership were signed Friday.

“I think it's great because we both share the same vision as far as the entertainment aspect of this business,” Etess said.

Etess and O'Farrell would not disclose financial terms of the partnership.

The move is the latest by Mohegan Sun to expand and diversify. Mohegan Sun is expanding its Connecticut casino and last year opened slot machines at the Pocono Downs harness racing complex outside Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

“It would be a very significant contributor to our diversification effort,” Etess said.

New York officials are hoping to select a franchise winner or winners before Dec. 31, when the franchise held since 1955 by the New York Racing Association expires.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has said the recommendation could be for one competitor to run racing at all three tracks as well as video slot machines at Aqueduct and Belmont. Or, one entity could run racing while another runs the video slots.

The groups vying for the 20-year franchise are: Excelsior Racing Associates, which includes Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn; Empire Racing, which has a partner in Churchill Downs and is based in Saratoga Springs; NYRA under recently changed management; and Capital Play.

Their proposals include video slot machines and hotels and other attractions at Aqueduct and Belmont, but no significant changes in Saratoga Race Course, which remains a global draw.
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