Push for Expanded Gambling Intensifies in NY
by Tom Precious
Date Posted: 1/20/2012 10:49:52 AM
Legislation is popping up in New York to permit additional
casinos across the state, with other versions of bills placing the expanded
gambling offerings at existing racetrack casinos. And there is a new effort to
permit sports betting in the state.
The flurry of
gambling activity in New York expanded after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo
during his state budget submission said more than $1 billion a year in tax
revenue could be raised by permitting full-fledged casinos—including table
games—beyond the areas that now feature Indian-owned gambling halls.
The governor is also
pressing for development of the world’s largest convention center next to
Aqueduct on land the state says is leased to Genting New York, the operator of
the new video lottery terminal casino at the racetrack.
The idea, including
its unanswered components as well as new battles between the state and the New
York Racing Association, has led to a range of speculation—including
suggestions the state or Genting might have an interest in closing down racing
at Aqueduct to permit a larger casino, hotel, and entertainment facility on the
“Aqueduct cannot shut
down, because if Aqueduct shuts down that will be the end of winter racing in
New York,” said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Assembly Racing and
Pretlow noted there
has been talk over the years about changing the training track at Belmont Park
to a winter track and adding a small grandstand for winter racing. “But that’s
another story for the future,” he said. “As it stands now, I don’t see Aqueduct
The governor the week
of Jan. 15 submitted legislation to both houses to change the state
constitution to permit a casino expansion on non-Indian lands. But Cuomo’s
legislation is not specific about how many casinos would be permitted or where.
Senate Racing and
Wagering Committee Chairman John Bonacic said he hopes any casino resolution
passed this year is specific in nature, while Pretlow said the details can be
taken care of next year in separate enabling legislation. To be successful, a
casino resolution would have to pass two successive sessions of the
legislature, and then a statewide referendum.
If lawmakers approve
a resolution this year and next year, voters would be able, at the earliest, to
consider the idea in November 2013.
has offered a resolution to permit the casino gambling expansion to occur at
the state’s existing racetracks that now offer VLTs. He said he plans to start
an effort he hopes will eventually allow sports betting in the state.
The governor also
proposed merging the state Lottery Division, which now regulates the lottery
games and racetrack casinos, with the New York State Racing and Wagering Board,
which has jurisdiction over racing at tracks and gambling by charitable
“At first blush, if
it improves efficiencies, I don’t have a problem with it,” Bonacic said.
But he said the
Senate will want more input in the selection of board members of the new
gambling commission. The legislation by Cuomo gives the governor power to
appoint all its board members and executive director, and they can be fired at
“I think the racing
industry has some concerns with that,” Bonacic said. “I think that’s something
we’re going to look at more closely, but I think it will be tweaked and not be
in its present form as proposed by the governor.”
Pretlow said he has
no criticisms of the governor having control over appointments to a new
gambling-related agency. “I think it’s a good idea, putting it all under one
roof,” he said.
The governor has said
he also hopes to use the casino debate as a way for the state to devise an
overall plan to better coordinate how the racing industry is structured. His
new budget plan did not include specific possibilities to carry out such an
“There’s no racing
plan because, for the most part, the racing industry is private,” Pretlow said.
“We don’t make their plans. If the governor is complaining or saying there
seems to be no plan, it’s because there can’t be a plan. We don’t control them”
outside of industry regulation.