NY Resolution Would Allow Private Casinos

Measure would affect four counties with racetracks but has uphill climb for passage.

A resolution has been introduced in the New York State Senate to permit privately owned casinos in four counties that are also home to racetracks.

The resolution, submitted May 19 by Central New York Republican Sen. Joseph Griffo, would permit casinos in counties with fewer than 500,000 people and that already host racetracks.

The provisions would allow one full-fledge casino -- as opposed to VLT-only betting at racetracks -- to be located in Oneida, Tioga, and Saratoga counties, and two casinos in Sullivan County.

The plan faces an uphill battle in the Assembly.

The Griffo resolution seeks to amend the state constitution to permit the casinos. That would require its passage by two separately elected sessions of the state Legislature and then approval by voters statewide. That means the earliest voters could consider such a measure, if it passed the Legislature this year, would be in November 2013.

Senate Racing Committee Chairman John Bonacic recently told The Blood-Horse that there would be “no advantage’’ to passing the resolution this year because it would give opponents only more time to try to kill a required second passage by the Legislature. Assembly Racing Committee Chairman Gary Pretlow, who like Bonacic also backs the addition of privately owned casinos, recently agreed that the measure could wait until 2012 for a first passage attempt.

The Griffo resolution would also require local approval for a casino to be located in one of the counties. A memo accompanying the bill claims that New York’s 2001 approval of Indian-owned casinos in the Catskills region has gone unrealized because no tribe has been able to win federal approval to place a gambling facility in the once-flourishing resort area located about 90 minutes from Manhattan.

“The time has come for the Legislature to authorize the construction and operation of casinos by other-than-tribal entrepreneurs,’’ the memo states.