Cuomo details casino plans, but no mention of LI

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday added two new wrinkles to his previously stated plan for up to seven casinos across the state: The first three would be upstate only, and New York City would be off-limits.

However, he didn't address what this means for the prospect of a casino on Long Island.

Cuomo, during his State of the State speech, said the economically challenged upstate region could use the tourism boost of three full casinos, on top of the nine racinos and five tribal gaming facilities in the state.

"I believe casinos in upstate New York could be a great magnet to bring New York City traffic up," he said. The plan would exclude any New York City casinos; he said they would detract from the upstate market.

But after the speech, State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said, "I think we want to have economic development downstate, too."

Asked whether a casino on Long Island is still a possibility, Skelos said "Yes."

Last year, the State Legislature approved a constitutional amendment for up to seven casinos in the state. Cuomo's new proposal, which must be submitted to the legislature, would constitute phase one of that proposal. The larger plan also must be approved by voters statewide to move forward.

The latest move could help Cuomo's plan because it addresses a major roadblock: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has expressed opposition to a New York City casino.

Wednesday, Silver said Cuomo's proposal to exclude the city "makes it easier" for the plan to pass the legislature.

"I don't think we ought to have casinos in densely populated parts of our state," Silver said. "I don't think that people should be able to go out to lunch from working and lose a month's pay on their lunch hour."

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He added, "I'm all for destination casinos in places that are not densely populated."

Cuomo didn't discuss phase two of his plan, nor his former proposal for full gaming at a planned convention center at a racino at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Last year, Cuomo's State of the State speech featured that proposal as a cornerstone, but the plan crumbled amid a breakdown in negotiations over a desired exclusivity clause.

Stefan Friedman, spokesman for Resorts World New York, which operates the Aqueduct racino, said the company "looks forward to reviewing the governor's proposal to facilitate economic development in upstate New York."

Friedman said the company remained interested in enhancing its existing partnership with the state.

In a statement, the Shinnecock Indian Nation board of trustees said it has "brought Indian gaming proposals to the State of New York from the Pataki administration straight down to the Cuomo administration," though none has resulted in a deal.


"Indian gaming works and the Shinnecock Nation stands committed to working with the state and should not be left out of the discussion regarding gaming in New York."

Under Cuomo's plan, 90 percent of the revenue garnered by the state from casinos would go to education, while 10 percent would be earmarked for local tax relief.

Cuomo recommended holding a national competition for potential casino bidders, which would be awarded by the state Gaming Commission, to "keep politics out" of the decision.

Gary Greenberg, the part owner of one racino, the Vernon Downs Hotel and Casino in Vernon, called Cuomo's plan to endorse three full-fledged casinos upstate "a major surprise" that he opposed. He said he'd prefer that the state allow existing racinos to convert to full casinos.

Whichever plan is finally endorsed, Cuomo expressed urgency in moving forward. "We are surrounded by casinos" in other states, he said. "We're losing revenue everyday."

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With Joan Gralla

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