NY Governor Proposes Belmont Casino
Photo: Coglianese Photos

New York Gov. David Paterson is proposing to permit a casino at Belmont racetrack, a move he believes will raise $370 million in a franchise fee payment to the deficit-ridden state.

The governor made the proposal Dec. 16 as part of a plan to erase $15.4 billion in red ink in the state’s budget over the next 16 months. The move comes after the state recently awarded the rights to operate a casino at Aqueduct to Delaware North. Both tracks are operated by the New York Racing Association.

Republicans in the state Senate have been pushing to permit a casino at Belmont as a way to bring jobs to the area and raise revenues for the state. But the idea in the past has been blocked by the Democratic-controlled Assembly, whose leader, Speaker Sheldon Silver of Manhattan, has said would present too many gambling opportunities in the metropolitan area.

But the governor, looking at a growing financial crisis in the state, is turning to hundreds of different ideas to raise money. The state would collect, as it is with Aqueduct, a one-time franchise fee payment from an operator of the Belmont casino, Paterson is proposing.

The Belmont plan was quickly dismissed by some lawmakers. "I don't see the fiscal reality in us doing Belmont to include VLTs,'' said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Assembly racing committee. "If the idea is to do some economic development there, like a hotel or conference center, that could be doable.''

"But, as far as having a full-fledged VLT facility with 4,000 to 5,000 machines? That's economically infeasible. It's just saturation. To have 10,000 VLTs within seven miles is a little bit ridiculous,'' said Pretlow, who like Paterson, is a Democrat.

The governor also wants to eliminate restrictions on the number of hours that current racetrack-based video lottery terminal casinos can operate in a day. He also wants to extend the current lower pari-mutuel tax rates adopted last year into the next fiscal year. “This proposal would also extend by one year the rules governing the simulcasting of out-of-state races and the authorization of account wagering,’’ according to the governor’s budget.

Horse racing would also face more gambling competition under the governor’s plan. He wants to permit New York to join another multi-state lottery game, and to expand the hours and number of places that can offer the state’s popular, electronic-keno style game called Quick Draw.

The governor's budget, which includes $401 million in new tax and fee hikes, also takes some aim at the horse industry. The plan calls for owners to pay $10 for every horse entered in a race in the state, raising $1 million for the state in the coming year.

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