New York Casino Timetable Becomes Clear

College president will head a panel charged with siting the first round of casinos.

New York's timetable for new casino developments became clearer Jan. 8 with Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing that a college president will head a panel charged with siting the first round of four casinos.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo said decisions by the casino siting panel are expected by early this fall.

Mark Gearan, a lawyer who is president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the Finger Lakes Region and a former director of the Peace Corps during the Clinton administration, will chair the Gaming Commission that will be in charge of selecting the casino siting panel.

The casino expansion was approved by voters statewide last November. Under the state's plan four casinos will be located in three areas of upstate: Catskills/Mid-Hudson Valley, the Saratoga Springs/Albany area, and an area running from the southern tier to east of Rochester. In all, seven full-scale casinos, with real slot machines and table games, will be allowed in the coming years.

"Our challenge is to make casinos a reality...make it happen fast and make it happen correctly," Cuomo said in his State of the State speech.

It is uncertain when the other four members of the siting panel will be named by the state Gaming Commission, which regulates casinos in New York.

The governor told state lawmakers in a state convention center near the Capitol that the casino siting panel will send out request for applications in March to gambling companies interested in bidding on the four casino franchises. Several harness tracks already home to VLT casinos are interested. The facility in Saratoga Springs has been receiving major push-back by local government officials, some Thoroughbred industry executives, and residents that could derail that facility's long-held plans to expand to a full, Las Vegas-style facility.

The governor said casino development bids will be due in June with decisions by the casino siting boardand initial construction getting underwayin the fall. The governor is up for re-election this fall and wants to be able to announce the casino development before then. He believes the expansion will create thousands of jobs and be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the state's budget.

"Some areas of the state have been waiting for casinos for more than four decades and in 2014 New York will prove that it is up to the challenge,'' Cuomo said in his written State of the State message delivered to lawmakers.