The New York Senate's top Republican wants Belmont Park to be included in the list of possible casino expansion locations.
"Belmont is one of the areas with no (video lottery terminals) unlike the other tracks, and that has to be part of the discussion," Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, said Jan. 30 after emerging from a private negotiating session with top state officials on the casino matter.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed that the first three casinos–of a total of seven he and lawmakers hope to ask voters to approve this fall–be limited to upstate New York. But Skelos said Long Island should not be left out, and specifically wants Belmont, as he has for years, in the running if new casinos are allowed.
The senator's position puts Malaysian-based Genting Group, operator of the successful Aqueduct Racetrack VLT casino, into an interesting position if it is to preserve its so-far exclusive gambling monopoly in New York City.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for upstate New York, and I say specifically Sullivan County," Skelos said of a county located in the southern Catskill Mountains region that is already home to Monticello Raceway. "But I think there's an opportunity for economic development throughout the entire state."
Earlier in January a soccer team proposed building a $400 million stadium in a largely unused area at Belmont. The proposal, according to Newsday, includes a 175-room hotel and restaurant on another parcel of land closer to the track.
The state's economic development agency has been considering uses for land officials believe is underutilized at the New York Racing Association track; the state of New York now runs NYRA for the next three years under a reorganization period approved last year by Cuomo and lawmakers.
Cuomo and three legislative leaders–the head of the Assembly and the Senate's two co-leaders–held their first closed-door negotiating session on the state's casino expansion effort Jan. 30. They tentatively agreed that the new state Gaming Commission should choose specific casino developers in a competitive bidding process. That commission, taking over the duties of the state Lottery Division and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, comes to life Feb. 1 even though officials have nominated only two of its seven-member board.
Cuomo and lawmakers also tentatively agreed that legislation approving the casino expansion should identify counties or regions eligible to be home to the Las Vegas-style facilities. But Cuomo said voters, if a statewide referendum is held this fall, will not know precise sites for where casinos will go; that would be determined by the Gaming Commission after the referendum.