New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

AP Photo

Cuomo Pushes Gambling Plan for New York

The governor again rejected racetracks as locations for full casinos.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing lawmakers to pass the second required piece of legislation to allow up to seven new casinos in New York State.

In his annual State of the State address the afternoon of Jan. 9, Cuomo proposed what he called an initial phase for casino expansion that would feature locating the first three casinos in upstate New York and none, at least at the outset, in New York City.

To try to help sell the casino plan with voters, Cuomo said he wants 90% of casino revenue-sharing or franchise-fee payments to be steered to the state's funding program for public schools. The remaining 10% would go to property tax relief efforts; he did not elaborate how that would work.

Lawmakers last year passed a resolution allowing up to seven casinos to be located on non-Indian land. The resolution does not detail where the facilities, which would be full-blown, Las Vegas-style casinos unlike the current racetrack gaming operations in New York, might be specifically located or how the casino operators would be selected.

If lawmakers pass a second resolution to amend the constitution to permit the casino expansion, a statewide referendum would be held in November.

In his speech to lawmakers, Cuomo said he wants to limit the first three casino locations to upstate New York. "I believe casinos in upstate New York could be a great magnet to bring the New York City traffic up," Cuomo said.

Cuomo again criticized the current racetrack casino program, saying the state does not get enough money from or properly regulate the nine facilities now open across the state. In pitching the casino expansion, Cuomo said New York is already home to more than a dozen gambling facilities at tracks and Indian reservations.

"We have backed into the casino business," he said.

The governor noted there are 39 gambling facilities in bordering states and Canadian provinces that now take betting dollars away from New York.

While racetracks have been pressing to be the locations for the new casino expansion, Cuomo again made clear he prefers a different approach, saying he wants "destination resort casinos" in areas of the state selected by a gambling commission based on the best economic model for the state and localities.

While Cuomo in the past has said he does not believe there should be a local referendum by voters before a casino can be permitted to locate in a specific region, the governor said in his State of the State speech that local governments and residents should have some say in the selection process. He did not elaborate, though, whether that means an actual local referendum as done in some other states in the past.