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Deal struck - up to 7 casinos authorized statewide

A deal struck between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators will include a constitutional amendment to remove the ban on Las Vegas-style casinos in New York and authorize up to seven casinos, the head of the state Assembly said Wednesday.

  Under a wide-ranging agreement, the governor will back off his previous threat to veto new election-district maps prepared by legislators themselves, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said. Lawmakers will agree to expand the state’s criminal DNA database and cut pension benefits for future government hires.

   Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) confirmed that both houses planned to begin voting on the entire package late Wednesday.

   “Everything is falling into place,” Skelos said.

   Cuomo didn’t immediately comment.

   The casino legislation would authorize a “maximum of seven” gambling venues across the state. But no specific locations would be identified or prohibited. The constitutional amendment would have to be approved again by the Legislature next year and then ratified by voters in a statewide referendum.

   “We will deal with where, when and how next year,” Silver said.

   Silver said the deal also would:

  - Approve new election-district maps for the Senate and Assembly, and change the decennial redistricting process – but not until districts are redrawn following the 2020 Census. A 10-member panel would be charged with drawing new districts. But legislators would appoint eight of the 10, and would have authority to reject the maps.

 - Reduce pension benefits for future government hires. The retirement age would increase to 63 from 62; employees earning $45,000 or more would have to pay more into the system that currently (Cuomo wanted it to begin at $30,000).

  - Expand the DNA databank. Currently under state law, convictions for all felonies and some misdemeanors trigger a requirement to submit a DNA sample to the state’s database. Cuomo and Skelos have been pushing to expand the law to cover any misdemeanor conviction. Silver said the deal will include aspects Democrats wanted such as giving the accused more access to the databank and the right to request that his/her DNA be tested.

[With Ted Phillips]

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