Aqueduct Race Course

Aqueduct Race Course

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Cuomo Defends Convention Center Plan

The center would be located next to Aqueduct, but poll reveals strong opposition.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his plan to have a private company construct the world’s largest convention center next to Aqueduct in the face of a new public poll in which most New Yorkers oppose the idea.

The governor is pressing a plan promoted by Genting New York, operators of the new casino at the track, that would use $4 billion of private money secured by the Malaysian-based gambling giant to build the convention center. Genting has not been specific about any plans to also expand gambling at the site, but has insisted the center is not contingent upon a plan also being pushed by Cuomo to permit full-blown, Las Vegas-style casinos on non-Indian lands, including at Aqueduct. It has discussed using 70,000 square feet of space on Aqueduct's third floor for additional gambling, but the governor today suggested Genting also wants gaming devices in the new convention center.

Cuomo said he believes New Yorkers will support the proposal once they know more about the effort that he said would not involve public funds. "This is a highly successful private sector company that does this all around the globe, exquisitely well, building a center with their money that is going to create jobs for New Yorkers and revenues for New Yorkers," Cuomo told reporters Jan. 16.

"The question for us on the convention center is do we allow Genting to expand on their current location on land that they currently control. That’s the only question for us. They will build a much larger center, including the convention center, if we allow them to have more gaming machines in the new space," the governor said.

A poll by Siena College found 57% of respondents oppose the convention center plan by Cuomo. But the same poll also found that 53% of New Yorkers back a change to the state constitution to permit full casino gamblingincluding table gameson non-Indian lands. Forty-two percent oppose the idea.

"Like previous polling on this issue in recent months, today’s Siena poll shows that urban, suburban, and rural voters from every region and background of New York state are in favor of a constitutional amendment to legalize gaming," said James Featherstonhaugh, president of the New York Gaming Association, a consortium of racino operators seeking to allow any casino expansion to include racetracks.

Cuomo re-stated his concern for what he called the current "hodge-podge" system of gambling across the state at tracks, Indian casinos, and other locations.

"When you look at the different tracks and the different deals that these different tracks have gotten, they all have different terms," Cuomo said of the revenue sharing and other payments tracks make to different government and private entities. "There’s no rhyme or reason to them."

The governor on Jan. 17 will unveil his 2013 state budget plan. He has said the state needs to take a comprehensive look at gambling, an exercise that could begin with his budget plan.

"It’s part of the reason I support a referendum on casino gaming,” he said, “so we can actually have a comprehensive gaming program in this state, where you look at all the racinos, you look at the racetracks, you look at NYRA (the New York Racing Association), and say ‘How does this all fit together?’ "

Of the current gambling industry in New York, he said, "It makes no sense."