ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that it was "unrealistic right now" for him to engage with the Shinnecock Nation about an Indian-run casino on Long Island. But he added that, except for Manhattan, he would not rule out any location for a casino -- including Belmont Park in Elmont.
Cuomo said he wants to hold a competition for up to seven casinos authorized by legislation earlier this year. But the State Legislature must pass that bill again next year and voters must approve it in a statewide referendum -- likely no earlier than fall 2013 -- before his administration would entertain proposals.
Until then, talks about an Indian-run casino on Long Island would be premature, the governor said. "Let's look at all seven [sites]," he said. "Who's got the best ideas? . . . Let's look for geographic balance. Let's put them all up on a map and then decide."
Cuomo said that if backers of a Belmont casino want to compete, if the Shinnecocks want to compete, "God bless 'em."
Shinnecock Nation officials couldn't be reached.
Talk about a casino on Long Island was reignited Friday after Cuomo announced he had scrapped plans to build "the world's largest convention center" at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park. Cuomo's plans with Genting Berhad, the Malaysia-based casino company that operates video slots at Aqueduct, hit a dead end and couldn't be resolved until voters approve the statewide casino legislation.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and others said Cuomo should open talks with the Shinnecock Nation about a Belmont casino. But, Cuomo said, "With Genting, it was premature because we didn't have enough information. Same thing for the Shinnecocks."
The governor said he wants one of the seven casinos to be part of a "gaming and convention center" in the New York metropolitan area. He said he wouldn't rule out Belmont Park, Yonkers Raceway or Aqueduct.
"I think proximity to the New York area is important," Cuomo said. "I don't know the answer, does it mean five miles? Does it mean 10 miles? Does it mean Yonkers? Does it mean Belmont? Does it mean Aqueduct? Willets Point [in Queens]? That will be part" of the competition.
He added: "I think we could get some wild proposals . . . and I think it could be fun."
Later, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) urged Cuomo to reconsider talking with the Shinnecocks about Belmont."The people of the Belmont community, Elmont and others, have been waiting generations for something to happen in a positive way at Belmont racetrack," Skelos said. "And if we can get something done sooner rather than later, I'm all for it."