New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making clear that racetrack operators will not get their wish to get exclusive rights for new, Las Vegas-style casinos if New York next year approves a sharp expansion of gambling across the state.
“I 100% oppose that, 100%,’’ Cuomo told reporters in a press conference June 4 at the state Capitol.
Still, the governor acknowledged that existing track racinos will be hard-pressed to compete against full-fledged casinos – raising questions about the future of racing operations in the state.
“Who’s going to go to the racino if you can get the real thing at a casino?’’ Cuomo said.
The governor’s tough comments came days after he backed away from efforts to cut a deal anytime soon with Genting New York, a Malaysian-based company that operates the new racino at Aqueduct, for a major casino expansion and convention center development on Aqueduct’s grounds.
Cuomo could not, he said, provide Genting with any guarantees that either they would have a betting exclusivity zone to protect its existing Aqueduct racino or that they would be one of seven possible full-fledge casinos the state is considering legalizing on non-Indian lands.
The New York Gaming Association, a lobbying group composed of the state’s tracks and racino operators, has made a pitch that existing racetrack gambling facilities be first in line to get any new casino expansion deals.
Cuomo discounted that idea, and said a number of major, international gambling companies have approached his administration with plans for possible casino developments. Most, sources said, are in and around New York City, and Cuomo has not ruled out casinos at Aqueduct and Belmont Park, as well as other spots. He downplayed efforts – saying he is opposed to the idea – of casinos being located in Manhattan.
Developers, though, have already pushed the idea of a Manhattan casino for high-rollers, with admission fees of as much as $500 as a way to beat back political opposition to locating a gambling hall in the heart of such an urban area.
“I believe it should be an open competition where we get the best companies and we get the best deal to the taxpayers that we can get,’’ Cuomo said of any future casino developments.
New York Gaming Association officials did not immediately respond for comment.
State lawmakers earlier this year approved a first step to permitting up to seven casinos. No details on where they would go or who would operate them were considered at the time. Lawmakers would have to approve the same resolution next year, and voters statewide could consider the plan as early as November 2013.
“I don’t believe the racinos have any claim for primacy,’’ Cuomo said. “I do not want to be in a position where the assumption that these tracks have the casinos and that we have to figure out how to get money from them. The current racino situation in this state is a scandal, in my opinion,’’ Cuomo said of the way revenue sharing reimbursements were worked out by the state and tracks in past years.
“I’m not going to be part of a situation that does that again, and if the legislature thinks that they’re going to make political (casino) selections through the legislative process, I won’t have anything to do with it,’’ the governor said.
Cuomo criticized an existing racino structure that sees some tracks paying more than others to the state in the form of revenue sharing. “Why do you start with the premise, besides a political one, that we should be doing this with the premise that we should be taking care of the racinos?’’ Cuomo said.
Where, precisely, the governor is going with his approach, and what it might mean for the future of racing – which now relies heavily on racino VLT revenues – remains uncertain.
The governor’s comments also come a couple weeks after the state and the New York Racing Association agreed to have the Cuomo administration and lawmakers take over the running of the three-track private company for the next three years during a “control board-like’’ period.