Key upstate senator: Upstate-only casino plan won't fly

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A key upstate senator said Thursday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo must broaden his casino-expansion plan if it hopes to survive a statewide referendum.

Sen. Tom Libous (R-Binghamton), the No. 2 Republican in the state Senate, said Cuomo’s proposal to develop just three casinos upstate likely can’t win enough support statewide. Casinos in neighboring states and gambling proponents will spend heavily to defeat casino expansion in New York, he said. And, with no statewide offices up for grabs in 2013, turnout is expected to be light — which will also work against expansion proponents.

A broader expansion plan could generate more support, he said.

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“I really think you have to go beyond three or it will fail,” Libous said.

Last year, lawmakers gave first approval to a constitutional amendment to allow up to seven new, non-Indian run casinos in New York. They must approve it again before it goes to a public referendum — it could be on the ballot in November.

But Cuomo changed course in January when he proposed limiting casino expansion to three upstate sites for now. Further sites could be developed later, he said — perhaps after an “exclusivity” period that allows the first three to flourish. The Democrat said that approving downstate casinos now could damper investments in upstate casinos.

Officials have said the casino discussion will be dropped from state budget negotiations but taken up in the second half of the legislative session.

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