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New York Legislature OKs Casino Referendum

The Democratic-led Assembly and the GOP-controlled Senate approved the measure.

The Democratic-led Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate in New York have approved a measure calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow up to seven casinos statewide.

The Assembly action came late March 14, and the Senate approved it early March 15. Notable for the nine racetracks in New York hoping to get exclusive rights to full casino gambling is the plan’s limit to seven new casinos in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a resolution to amend the state constitution to permit full-blown casinos--with table games now banned--on non-Indian lands. The state is already home to several Indian casinos, as well as nine racetrack-based casinos with video lottery terminals. Cuomo has not been specific about where the new casinos should be located; that, he said, is a fight for next year.

“All it’s going to have is a maximum of seven," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said of the measure approved by the Assembly and Senate. “We’ll deal with where, when, and how next year."

Cuomo and Silver oppose having a casino in Manhattan, however.

The legislature, in two successive sessions, must approve any constitutional amendment before voters get a say in a statewide referendum. The earliest a referendum could occur if the legislature acts this year is November 2013.

Cuomo said he will offer specifics of a plan next year; many lawmakers said they want the specifics this year before any first passage of a resolution.