New York's growing gambling industry is now being regulated by a single state agency with vast powers over the individuals and companies involved in everything from Thoroughbred racing to Indian casino operations.
The New York State Gaming Commission, created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers last year, combines the regulatory and operational duties of the now-defunct state Racing and Wagering Board and the Lottery Division.
The duties and legal authorities of the new agency is spread out over 13 pages of state law contained in the New York budget passed last March. The agency was supposed to be activated last year, but officials had trouble finding people to join the new seven-person board.
Indeed, the agency came to life Feb. 1 without a board of directors in place. Cuomo last week nominated two members, but they have not been confirmed by the Senate yet and the five other board posts are still empty.
Running the agency on a day-to-day basis is Robert Williams, acting executive director. A lawyer, Williams comes with a couple decades of experience handling various racing and gambling matters during posts in the Legislature and executive branches of government in New York.
The agency's duties include everything from conducting background checks and disciplinary hearings of people involved in the horse racing industry in New York to monitoring racetrack-based and Indian-owned casinos. It will run the state's many lottery products, including the video lottery terminals at racinos, and must approve capital spending and race date requests by tracks, as well as regulate all the state's charitable gambling ventures run by groups from veteran's organizations to bingo operations.
"The Legislature finds and determines that the gaming industries constitute a vital sector of New York state's overall economy. The Legislature also finds and determines that responsive, effective, innovative state gaming regulation is necessary to operate in a global, evolving and increasingly competitive marketplace,'' according to the 2012 legislation creating the Gaming Commission.
The commission, if Cuomo has his way in upcoming talks with lawmakers, will be the agency that selects developers to build and run up to seven casinos in New York under the governor's plan to amend the state constitution to expand gambling on non-Indian lands in the state. The measure still needs another round of approvals from the Legislature and, if lawmakers pass the measures, a statewide referendum vote possibly this fall.