The evolving process of legalizing non-Indian casinos in New York continues to leave questions for the Capital Region.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the foundation of a plan for putting three non-Indian casinos in upstate New York, following a meeting Wednesday morning with legislative leaders. He said they agreed the selection of casino operators should be left up to an independent, non-political body and that this body would be formed with legislative input.
As for the state Legislature’s involvement in this process, Cuomo said, “We’re not there yet on the details.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, who has stressed the need for legislative involvement in placing upstate casinos, said the process was still evolving.
Moving forward, the plan is to have more leadership discussions, as the majority conferences from the Assembly and state Senate update their members on Wednesday’s meeting. This year, the governor is planning to have second legislative passage of a constitutional amendment authorizing seven non-Indian casinos and the passage of legislation that would loosely define where three upstate casinos would go, how their revenue will be distributed and how the operators would be chosen.
Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson, who represents Saratoga Springs, where there is a racino that is hoping to become a casino with live table games, said he has more questions than answers after the news Wednesday. One of the big question marks is where the casinos would be located, with Cuomo’s vision only allowing the Legislature to approve three regions for casinos and not specific counties. Then specific location would be selected based on proposals from potential operators.
Jordan said the first step should be defining specific locations and then dealing with how much revenue would need to be generated, how it would be distributed and how the operator would be selected. He said choosing the locations is especially important to the nine existing racino operators, where only electronic gambling is offered.
“If you locate a casino right next to a racino, they’re not competing on equal footing,” Jordan said, predicting a drop in business for the racino if it competes with a nearby live-table games.
He said any plan for legalizing casinos should begin with a consideration of racino operations, as they’ve shown they’re successful at generating money for the state and the state’s horse industry.
Part of Jordan’s frustration with this process stems from the lack of transparency, as Cuomo has been leading this issue by himself.
“You put transparency on what it is we’re doing and what it is you’re proposing,” he said. “I don’t know why he is holding the cards so tight on this one.”