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Details profile proposed state gaming commission

The Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in

The Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park opened in October 2011. (Credit: Handout)

The outlines of a new state gaming commission are beginning to emerge.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislators have introduced a bill -- as part of the state budget package -- that would create a new entity with the power to oversee horse racing “racinos,” compacts with Indian-run casinos, charitable games and off-track betting. The entity would also regulate Las Vegas-style casinos if voters eventually agree to amend the state constitution to allow a gambling expansion.

The commission would replace the existing Racing and Wagering Board and the Lottery Division. Cuomo has criticized the state’s current regulatory scheme as fragmented and has promised to present a “comprehensive” and “cohesive” gambling policy. Creation of the commission would be the first step.

Under the bill introduced Monday, Cuomo would control five of the seven appointments to the new commission, with the Senate and Assembly selecting one apiece. Members would serve staggered terms of office.

As rationale for the new commission, the proposed bill says:

 By consolidating regulatory functions into a single oversight body, this [bill] will increase efficiency, reduce costs and eliminate any unnecessary redundancies in regulation. The improved regulatory structure established by this [bill] will ensure, so far as practicable, the exclusion of unsuitable persons or entities from participating in any legalized gaming activity within this state.

Two weeks ago, Cuomo and legislators gave first passage to a constitutional amendment to remove New York’s ban on non-Indian-run casinos. The measure authorized up to seven Las Vegas-style casinos around the state, but didn’t specify locations.

To amend the constitution, the Legislature must pass the measure again in 2013 and then voters must approve it in a statewide referendum.

Acoalition of “racinos” -- horse racing tracks that offer video slot machines -- has stepped its lobbying efforts to allow its facilities to become full-scale casinos, offering poker, craps, roulette and other “table” games. The coalition has nine members -- including the Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park -- meaning obviously that not all venues will get casinos.

Other major gambling companies have begun showing interest in New York as well. Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming recently hired a prominent Albany lobbying firm.

Lawmakers are expected to pass a budget over the next few days, in time for the April 1 start of New York’s fiscal year.

Photo: Some of the games available at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park. ( Oct. 28, 2011)

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