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Editorial: New York must play smart, honest hand in gambling game

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in Bethel, N.Y. (Nov. 6, 2013) Credit: AP

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hit the jackpot Tuesday as voters approved amending the state constitution to authorize up to seven full casinos, with the first four slated for upstate to spur economic development.

Now New Yorkers want their share of the prize money.

The governor sold the complex deal to every region of the state and every interest group by promising each a piece of the action. The focus is now on the complex enabling law that will set the house rules for how the gaming game will be played.

While there is almost no chance of a casino downstate for at least seven years, destination casino resorts could open in the Catskills, Albany area and Finger Lakes by 2015. And when the doors open, the money should start flowing to schools and local governments.

Part of Cuomo's pitch dangled an estimated $430 million in annual revenue statewide. For Long Island, that includes an estimated $34.4 million total for Nassau and Suffolk counties from the video-lottery-terminal parlors that should be opening, one in each county, by next year. Long Island's share of the upstate casino money is an estimated $28.9 million, to be used either for property tax relief or additional school aid above the current level, and each district's share from the state lottery. The State Legislature and communities will decide how to allocate the funds. Regardless of how the new dollars from casinos and VLTs are distributed, the process must be transparent.

While the increased revenue was the lure, the new approach to gambling puts in place comprehensive regulation by a gaming commission, along with an inspector general to ferret out corruption.

The orchestration of the passage of the amendment and the companion law, along with the settlement of claims against Indian nations that run casinos upstate, was masterful. So must be the implementation of all that was promised.