Tracks May Be Left Out in NY Gaming Expansion

Gov. Andrew Cuomo questions why racetrack casinos should be among future sites.

Hours after lawmakers approved an initial step to expand non-Indian casino gambling in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised the possibility that no racetrack casino will be among the future sites in the state for expanded gambling developments.

“Why would people take (it) that any racinos are going to get them?’’ Cuomo told reporters March 15 after lawmakers approved a first step to amend the constitution to permit up to seven casinos in the state.

The state’s nine racetrack casinos have been lobbying to get exclusive deals so that only their facilities would be eligible for the full-blown casinos. The track casinos are currently limited to video lottery terminals and can’t have such offerings as table games.

But the governor has raised questions about the tracks’ proposal, and suggested the state’s entire racing laws governing such things as revenue-sharing splits for the track casinos need to be examined. He has also questioned deals over the past decade that permitted the tracks to have the casinos in the first place.

“We haven’t had any discussions about where, who, how. So, I don’t think there should be any assumptions whatsoever,’’ Cuomo said of speculation about where the casinos could be located. Cuomo said he does envision the facilities as “regional revitalization tools’’ to be spread around New York, and agrees with critics who think casinos should not be located in Manhattan. (Cuomo has been supportive of expanding the current Genting New York casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.)

The governor said he thinks the casinos should be located based on “an equitable, logical, geographic distribution.’’

“We want to create destination locations,’’ Cuomo said of facilities that would include the full array of Las Vegas-style hotel and entertainment offerings. Besides the nine track casinos, the state also has five Indian-run casinos.

The resolution approved March 15 by the Legislature was left void of any details. To change the constitution, the Legislature would have to approve the same resolution again in its next two-year session, which begins Jan. 1. The earliest voters could consider the plan in a statewide referendum is November 2013.

Cuomo and lawmakers said details, such as locations and how the casinos would be put to bid, will come next year during talks over a side piece of “enabling legislation’’ accompanying the casino amendment resolution.