The Wall Street Journal
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed authorizing three Las Vegas-type casinos in upstate New York, two video slot machine centers in western New York and a moratorium on casinos in New York City.
Prohibiting a casino in any of New York City’s five boroughs is a new element. Cuomo had previously pushed for a five-year moratorium on a casino there, saying that casino operators would have little interest in upstate locations if the highly lucrative New York City market were available. A New York City casino also would conflict with Cuomo’s theory that resort casinos upstate could draw out of state tourists staying in New York City.
But under Cuomo’s bill, the Legislature would have to separately approve a casino for New York City, including turning the lucrative video slot machine center at Aqueduct race track in Queens into a full-fledged casino.
Cuomo made the announcement Wednesday in a bill expected to be the basis of a possible legislative deal by the end of the legislative session June 20.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a lower Manhattan Democrat, has opposed allowing casinos in Manhattan.
“The governor has presented a comprehensive plan, which we will discuss in conference, and I believe we can reach an agreement before the end of session,” Silver said.
There was no immediate comment from the Senate, which also would have to approve the bill.
Cuomo’s proposal would put resort casinos in three of six regions. A commission appointed by Cuomo and Assembly and Senate leaders would have a role in siting those casinos.
The regions in play include the Catskills, the Albany-Saratoga region, the North Country, central New York, the eastern part of the Southern Tier and western New York.
The proposal going to the Legislature would allow only one casino in a region.
Cuomo, a Democrat, wants a minimum $50 million licensing fee and a 25 percent cut of gross revenues going to the state.
His proposal mirrors one that the administration briefed the Legislature on Tuesday and that was reported by The Associated Press.
Cuomo again seeks to pressure the Seneca Nation of Indians by threatening to put a private sector, Las Vegas-style casino in the Buffalo region that would compete with the tribe’s casino. Cuomo’s bill wouldn’t put a new casino in the Senecas’ area if the tribe were in good standing.
“He’s a bully,” Seneca President Barry Snyder Sr. told The Buffalo News on Tuesday after meetings in Albany. “I’ll say it again — he’s a bully.”
The Senecas are withholding casino revenue from the state until the Cuomo administration agrees not to allow a private casino operator to open a competing Niagara Falls casino.
The proposed large video slot machine center in western New York which would be competitively bid by gambling operators that could include the region’s off-track betting agency. Video casinos are now run at race tracks, where they are called racinos.
Cuomo said the video slot machines would be authorized only if the Senecas fail to agree to release the state’s share of casino revenues.
Cuomo’s proposal doesn’t include a large video slot machine center for Long Island, which was included in a Senate casino bill. Two people familiar with the Cuomo administration briefings on Tuesday said the Long Island facility was debated but may not make the final deal with the Legislature. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had detailed Cuomo’s proposal before the governor released it publicly.
The deal would allow casinos to be approved in New York City, likely outside Manhattan, five years after the upstate casinos began operating.
Cuomo’s proposal reflects some changes from previously public concepts given by the Democratic governor and legislative leaders. Recently, Senate Republicans sought as many as three casinos in the historic resort areas of the Catskills under a plan that would have approved five casinos overall.
The Coalition Against Gambling in New York is among those fighting the governor’s expansion of casinos as a way to create jobs, boost tourism and raise tax revenues.
“Casinos depend for half their gross gaming revenue on the small minority of their customers who are pathological or problem gamblers,” stated the group of clergy and other opponents of gambling.