Revised Gambling Casino Expansion Bill Would Authorize Them

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York State casino expansion bill being negotiated behind closed doors included a new provision Saturday, which would expand gambling even if voters reject the proposal to build more casinos.

A copy of the revised bill obtained Saturday by The Associated Press includes a provision that would authorize video slot machine centers in the outer boroughs of New York City, and as many as three or four places upstate. The bill provides for the video slot casinos with up to 5,000 machines at each center.

Previously, New York State Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said discussions for the casino plan included a proposal for video slot machines run by off-track betting agencies in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Hours after refusing to discuss the bill, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed his proposal through a spokeswoman.

“If the casino referendum fails, we will propose offering more high-end (video slot machines) to combat the loss of revenue to neighboring states and secure new funding for our schools,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa.

Cuomo has said that getting public approval for a constitutional amendment to allow Las Vegas-type casinos would be difficult. Gambling opponents and competing gambling entities are expected to mount TV ad blitzes.

The bill is expected to authorize four major upstate resort casinos. It is expected to see more revisions before it is released publicly as early as Monday. It could be voted on in the coming week, before the 2013 legislative session is scheduled to end.

The measure states the provision for more video slots centers “shall only be effective in the even an amendment to the constitution to authorize casino gambling is defeated.” A referendum is expected to be on ballots in November.

The measure also serves as incentive for the New York Gaming Association to support Cuomo’s casino bill, or at least not to fight it. NYGA represents racetracks with racinos, the name for casinos that offer video slot machines and video table games. Those are games that were created to avoid the constitutional ban on gambling off Indian land.

The new provision would open competition for more video slots centers to gambling operators beyond the race track operators.

NYGA had told the AP last week that it opposes Cuomo’s casino proposal because it wouldn’t provide a fair chance for racetrack racino operators to compete for a Las Vegas type casino.

Members of NYGA and the operators of a lucrative racino at Aqueduct race track could be wealthy opponents to the casino referendum.

Cuomo’s spokeswoman confirmed that the governor’s proposal would subject current video slot machine centers including the one operated by the Genting company at Aqueduct race track and others represented by the New York Gaming Association. She said some video slots centers aren’t required by the state to provide revenue to local communities and that that’s unacceptable.

“No racino was granted a lifetime monopoly,” she said in a statement Saturday night.

There was no immediate comment from legislative leaders Saturday.

Cuomo has proposed authorizing three to four Las Vegas-type resort casinos upstate to boost the long distressed economy. Five years later, more could be authorized in areas including the New York City area, outside Manhattan. The referendum would authorize a total of seven Las Vegas-type casinos.

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