Cuomo: Belmont casino doesn't 'make sense'

In a visit to Newsday Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo shares his thoughts on the controversy over casinos in New York. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (Feb. 2, 2012)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday that a new casino at Belmont Park would not be economically viable as he touted plans for the nation's largest convention center and a possible casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

The Shinnecock Indian tribe has pursued a casino at Belmont and a handful of sites in Suffolk County.

"My instinct is it would not make sense to have two [casinos] back-to-back at Aqueduct and Belmont," Cuomo said in a meeting with Newsday's editorial board. "My guess is that it would not make sense . . . from a planning point of view."

The governor said last month that he was negotiating with the Genting Organization, a Malaysian company that operates theme parks, casinos and seaside resorts, to build a $4 billion, 3.8-million-square-foot convention center at Aqueduct to replace the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

Cuomo said Belmont needs an economically viable redevelopment plan, but declined to offer suggestions.

Shinnecock officials disagreed with the governor's assessment.

"The idea that the world's largest market can only support one facility at Aqueduct makes no sense," said tribal spokeswoman Beverly Jensen. "Belmont could bring in hundreds of millions in revenue in Nassau County without losing one single job in Queens."

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said Thursday that he is pursuing sports and entertainment options for Belmont, located in Elmont.

"Nassau County has received interest from a developer with the financial means to establish a soccer stadium complemented by mixed-use development, which would enhance the current raceway," Mangano said.

Also Thursday, Cuomo restated his desire to amend the state constitution to legalize non-Indian gambling in New York. If the measure clears the legislature and a public referendum, Genting would expand the current Aqueduct racino, which has video slot machines and electronic table games, into a full-fledged casino.

The plan, the governor said, does not include sports gambling. Indian-owned gaming sites are legal.

"Casinos are not an ideal form of economic development, but this is not an ideal world," Cuomo said.

He noted that New York State already has 29,000 video gaming machines -- more than Atlantic City -- but the state does not regulate the industry or maximize its revenue collection.

Cuomo also endorsed a comprehensive reform of the state's gaming policies, including a review of subsidies to the New York Racing Authority and the creation of a state gaming commission.

"These functions have been so dysfunctional for so long," Cuomo said.

Earlier Thursday, Cuomo appeared at Molloy College in Rockville Centre to promote his 2012-13 budget and his top legislative priorities: teacher performance evaluations and a pension proposal that would allow future state employees to opt into a 401(k)-style plan, which would save the state on future pension costs.

Cuomo also said the budget calls for major new infrastructure projects on Long Island. They would include repairs to six bridges and 80 miles of roadway, restoration of seven area parks, upgrades to three local municipal water systems and six coastal erosion projects.

With Sid Cassese

On the governor's mind

 

Gov. Cuomo touched on a host of Long Island-related issues. Among his thoughts:

Nassau County will remain in a control period managed by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state watchdog, for the foreseeable future. "NIFA is doing what it is supposed to be doing," he said. "There is a tension in the relationship with the county and NIFA, almost by design."

He will not support a bill, set to be introduced Friday by Sens. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), to repeal the MTA payroll tax for all counties, towns and villages. Cuomo signed legislation last year lifting the tax for school districts and small businesses.

The State Education Department and school employee unions have until Feb. 16 to strike a deal on a teacher evaluation system, or Cuomo will introduce his own proposal. Schools will also be given one year to implement the evaluation system or risk forfeiting an increase in education aid in next year's school budgets.

Cuomo will propose legislation in the coming weeks to deal with the regulation of prescription drugs. The measure, he said, will "create the right balance" between oversight and ensuring that legitimately sick people can obtain needed medication.

The second round of Regional Economic Development Council grants, in which $200 million will be distributed for local projects, is the only source of state funding available to redevelop the Nassau Hub. Cuomo is meeting with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in the next few weeks to discuss the Hub.

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