State Sen. Cecelia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, has co-sponsored home rule legislation for casino gambling that would require a host community and county to support a site before it’s approved by the state’s Gaming Commission.
The legislation, also sponsored by state Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, would also require the construction of any casino comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act and prohibit the transfer of land for the construction of a casino as a means to avoid compliance with local zoning regulations by host municipalities.
Tkaczyk said the law would help both host communities and developers alike by clearly denoting which areas want to host a casino.
“The host community where this takes place clearly needs to have input,” she said. “I think it’s really important to have that local community buy in.”
The legislation was referred to the Senate committee on racing, gaming and wagering Thursday. Though similar legislation hasn’t been proposed in the Assembly, Tkaczyk believes something is in the works.
The bill comes as residents of the city of Saratoga Springs remain divided over the possibility of a casino with table games locating in the city. Some think the Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s bid for one of the sites would bring added prosperity, while others fear it would threaten the city’s vibrant downtown and the historic Saratoga Race Course.
Leaders in Albany County also seem skeptical about a casino locating in their midst. A developer’s bid to transform the dilapidated Tobin’s First Prize plant on the Albany-Colonie border has already been met with criticism.
The siting process is still somewhat unclear. The Gaming Commission’s siting board is expected to approve four casino applications based on a variety of criteria, including the number of jobs expected to be created, the amount of capital investment planned, the level of revenue expected to be generated for the state and the availability of financing.
Also factoring into the decision will be the level of local support for a casino, the number of amenities it would offer, how the facility will integrate with regional tourism, the operator’s level of experience in gaming development and the speed with which the project can be constructed. The commission’s request for proposals is expected to be released in March, with a return deadline in June. A decision on the sites would be made by fall; Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated he wants the first casinos opened in January 2015.
Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, said Tkaczyk’s legislation isn’t likely to get far. He said Cuomo has already indicated local input will be considered as part of the decision-making process and doubted his colleagues in the Senate would change this intent.
“The governor has clearly said he wants to keep the Legislature and local politics out of the siting process,” he said.
Even if the Senate and Assembly were to adopt the legislation, it almost assuredly would be vetoed by Cuomo. Melissa DeRosa, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the siting process already includes local community support as a prerequisite.
“A process for selecting and siting casinos — which already does include local community support as a required factor — has been voted upon by the Legislature, subject to intense public debate, and ultimately approved by a majority of New Yorkers,” she said via email. “We will reject any attempts to politicize the selection process with unnecessary legislation.”
Joseph Ogden, deputy mayor of Saratoga Springs, said the city will review the legislation submitted by Tkaczyk and Krueger.
“We appreciate our state officials taking a closer look at this issue,” he said. “While we have not had an opportunity to review the bill, we will in the coming days.”