Gaming Commission Names 3 to NY Casino Board

Panel to take charge of site selection for four resort gambling projects in state.

The first three members of a casino siting board have been named by the New York State Gaming Commission, a move that starts the clock ticking for when the state will ask developers to bid on the first four casino projects in the state.

The commission selected Bill Thompson, the former New York City comptroller who unsuccessfully ran for mayor last year, along with Paul Francis, a businessman and budget director under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, and Stuart Rabinowitz, the president of Hofstra University.

The panel is supposed to have five members, but sources say the administration has had difficulty finding people who want to invest time in the unsalaried posts and pass the necessary hurdles to qualify.

The Resort Gaming Facility Location Board, as it is known, will issue the request for application that developers must submit. The document that can be made public within 90 days after the three members are formally approved by the Gaming Commission at its next meeting. The panel will also review the applications and make recommendations on developers and sites to the full Gaming Commission board, which holds the final decision-making authority.

"These individuals have the expertise, objectivity, and knowledge of New York State to evaluate the applications to operate destination resort casinos," said Mark Gearan, Gaming Commission chairman-designate.

Francis is a senior fellow at the New York University Law School and has served as budget director and state operations director in the Spitzer administration and briefly for former Gov. David Paterson. He was chief operating officer at Bloomberg L.P.'s financial products division and has held advisory posts in the administration of current Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He has also been chief financial officer at Ann Taylor and

Rabinowitz is a former dean of the Hofstra Law School and has held posts with different government and community entities, including the Judicial Advisory Council of the State of New York Unified Court System.

Thompson is senior managing director at Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., a municipal bond underwriting firm, and while New York City comptroller was responsible for running one of the nation's largest public pension systems. He is also a former president of the New York City Board of Education.

New Yorkers last November approved a constitutional amendment permitting up to seven new commercial casinos in the state. The governor and lawmakers okayed a separate enabling bill that calls for the first four casinos to be located in three geographic areas: the eastern southern tier, the Catskills/Mid-Hudson Valley, and the Albany/Saratoga Springs area. Where the other three casinos might be located in the years ahead is uncertain, though developers are eager to get gambling halls built in New York City.

The state expects bids to be returned by developers in June with selections made in early fall.

The law establishing the siting board requires its members to be residents of New York. No member of the Legislature or anyone holding an appointed office in federal, state, or local governments are eligible. Members are required to have at least 10 years of responsibility in "fiscal matters'' and must have backgrounds in areas such as accounting, economics, finance, or "significant service" in an academic field relating to finance or economics, or knowledge in commercial real estate matters.

Members are barred from having "a close familial or business relationship" to anyone holding a Gaming Commission license and may not have any direct or indirect financial interests in gambling activities, including horse racing. They can get reimbursed for expenses, but get no pay for the work.