The governor of New York is still not ready to divulge where he thinks new casinos should be located in the state, but said people are in a “state of denial” if they think casino gambling does not already exist in New York.
“It’s not whether or not we should be in the gaming business. We’re already in the gaming business. We just don’t call it the gaming business,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters March 8.
“We came up with cute devices to get around the constitution, in truth,” he added of racetrack-based casinos that are home to thousands of video lottery terminals; the VLT devices were the subject of much court litigation, defended by the state, after they were approved for tracks in 2001.
“We call them racinos. But by the way, we call them racinos in the law. If you look at how they’re advertised and what it says on the venue, it says casino. This is a myth we’ve created,” Cuomo said.
The governor has proposed a resolution to amend the state constitution to permit full-blown casinos--with table games now banned-- on non-Indian lands. The state is already home to several Indian casinos, as well as nine racetrack-based casinos. Cuomo has not been specific about where, or how many, such new casinos should be permitted; that, he says, is a fight for next year.
The legislature, in two successive sessions, must okay any constitutional amendment before voters get a say in a statewide referendum. The earliest a referendum could occur if the legislature acts this year is November 2013. Cuomo says he will offer up specifics of a plan next year; many lawmakers say they want the specifics this year before any first passage of a resolution.
The governor’s comments came as the latest in a long line of casino development announcements made for a resort in the Catskill region of the state. The proposal calls for moving Monticello Raceway four miles down the road to the site of the former Concord Hotel, a once mandatory stop by entertainers when the Catskills was a tourist giant. The development plan is between Empire Resorts, which owns the track, and Entertainment Properties Trust, owners of the former hotel site.
The plans were to be unveiled before local officials in the Catskills later tonight.
Earlier this week, a poll by Siena College found 49% of the state’s voters oppose additional casinos and 48% support the expansion.
“I think we will have a challenge next year when we go to the people on this issue to overcome an initial skepticism that people have,” Cuomo said.
But he hopes to convince New Yorkers that gambling is already here in a major way and the expansion will bring further jobs and revenues to the state.
“We say we’re not in the gaming business. It’s just an illusion that we have created. And it’s a dangerous illusion because we’re not, I believe, regulating, protecting, and taxing the industry the way we should be,” the governor said.