By ERIK KRISS Bureau Chief
ALBANY — Casino giant Genting boasted yesterday that its
proposed biggest-in-the-nation convention center next to Aqueduct Racetrack
would bring tens of thousands of new jobs and “untold billions” in tax and
tourism revenue to the metropolitan area.
But sources told The Post that in exchange for taking a $4
billion gamble to build the convention center, Genting is demanding the state
grant it exclusive rights to casino operations in the entire city.
Gov. Cuomo is pushing for a constitutional amendment to
legalize gambling, which could allow Genting to expand its current racino at
Aqueduct — the only racino in the five boroughs — into a full-fledged casino.
Cuomo announced the proposed convention center, to be built
with private investment, in his State of the State speech Wednesday.
Asked about talks with Genting, Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto
said yesterday, “There’s no agreement on exclusivity.”
Genting spokesman Stefan Friedman said his company is in
discussions with Cuomo’s office, and won’t negotiate through the media.
Although Friedman said his company supports legalizing
casino gambling, both he and Vlasto said plans by Genting are not contingent on
the amendment’s approval by state voters.
But a nonbinding letter between Genting and Cuomo’s Empire
State Development Corp. says the two sides have discussed “a casino expansion
to the existing video lottery terminal facility.”
The center would essentially replace Manhattan’s Jacob
Javits Convention Center.
Cuomo proposed re-purposing the 18-acre Javits site for
housing, hotels and office space.
An anti-casino think tank attacked the proposed Genting plan
as a clever way to sell gambling.
“It’s a slick move by the governor to try to wrap the casino
plan around the convention-center plan,” said Institute for American Values
spokesman Paul Davies.
The institute, bankrolled by philanthropist Jack Templeton,
conducted a recent poll that found most New York economists consider revenues
generated by casinos a regressive tax.
“The reality is this is a huge tax on low-income people” who
frequent casinos, Davies said.
Genting said it plans to build its new center in two phases.
The first, 2.6 million square-foot phase, would be completed by November 2014
at the earliest, with the first 1,000-room hotel scheduled for November 2015.