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Casino for Queens County

Queens County is one of seven regions the Senate Republicans will propose siting a casino.

During a forum this morning on casino gambling that was hosted by City and State, Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, identified the county as one of seven that will be specified in legislation he wrote to accompany a constitutional amendment allowing up to seven live-table non-indian casinos. He added that his plan would not site a casino in Manhattan, Staten Island, Bronx, Brooklyn or Long Island.

"I do have a bill, ready to go," Bonacic said, noting that the Catskills are also a "prime" area for a casino.

The proposal, he said, is designed to engage Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been negotiating this issue in private meetings with the legislative leaders. The governor has only said he wants three upstate casinos, with operators and locations selected by the Gaming Commission.

The plan from Bonacic will identify three upstate regions for the first round, with specific locations and operators chosen by the state's Gaming Commission. This proposal would also identify a process for handing out the final four casino licenses.

In describing the state Legislature's role in siting the casinos, Bonacic said, "We're giving [the Gaming Commission] a region to play in."

He envisioned a staggered process after the first three upstate casinos were awarded, with new casino operators and locations being awarded in six to nine month intervals.

Revitalizing a region's economy is also the focus of Bonacic's plan. He said the regions selected in his legislation have unemployment rates between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent, which would not bode well for the chances of Saratoga County.

Tax rates and the breakdown of revenues from potential casinos were also discussed at the forum. Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, D-Yonkers, who is the Assembly's point man on all gambling issues, reiterated his opposition to a share of revenue for the hosting government. He said the benefits should be shared throughout the state.

Pretlow also took issue with Cuomo's assertion that having the Gaming Commission select casino locations and operators removed the political from the process. "You can't take the politics out of politics because it is politics," he said with the tongue twister of the morning.

In response to the possibility of pushing a referendum on the casino amendment back until 2014, Pretlow said it would depend on when the state Legislature passed the amendment for a second time. If the state Legislature passed it before June 10, he said it would have to be voted on this year. After that date, it wouldn't be able to come up until 2014.

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