The board created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to oversee all of the state’s gambling interests finally has enough members to meet.
Four of the governor’s appointees to the state Gaming Commission board, including Clifton Park resident John Poklemba, were approved late on Wednesday afternoon by the state Senate. These are the first members appointed to the seven-member board, which was created four months ago with the merger of the state’s Division of Lottery and Racing Wagering Board.
State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, said she liked that the governor’s appointees had knowledge in horse racing, finance and management. “I thought that the applicants were very well-qualified and brought different skill sets to the board,” she said.
The four members included Poklemba, who is an attorney and worked for then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, John Crotty, who serves on the state board that regulates the New York Racing Association, Todd Snyder, who has experience siting casinos in Illinois, and Barry Sample, who has worked in a variety of state agencies.
The new board will have to hit the ground running, Marchione said, as they will be responsible for picking the committee that would decide where four upstate casinos will go if a constitutional amendment allowing non-Indian casinos passes the state Legislature at the end of the week and is approved in a statewide referendum this fall.
During testimony to the Senate’s Racing and Wagering Committee on Wednesday morning, Poklemba said he believed casinos could be a “real shot in the arm to certain areas” that are struggling economically.
He said the No. 1 obligation of the Gaming Commission is to ensure the integrity of all of the gambling in the state.
Poklemba’s experience with gambling includes time at all of NYRA’s tracks, including Saratoga Race Course, and visits to the Saratoga Casino & Raceway with his mother.
New board member Crotty expressed serious reservations about the state’s current system of using revenue from the state’s racinos to support the racing industry. He said it was problematic if racing couldn’t exist without those payments and said businesses should stand on their own two legs.
Revitalizing the state’s horse racing industry was brought up during the questioning of Snyder in Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate racing meeting. He said the board can provide predictable and common-sense regulations that should help promote racing in the state.
There are still three vacancies on the board, with one more spot under control of Cuomo and each majority conference with one appointment.
The new board is expected to convene soon, possibly before the end of the month.