Cuomo Wants to Roll the Dice on Casinos

August 12, 2011 at 10:12 am

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to game the system — or rather, introduce gaming into the system. On Tuesday, he announced that his office is considering allowing commercial, privately owned Las Vegas-type casinos to open in New York State.

Current laws only permit gambling at American Indian-owned casinos and racetracks, where patrons can play video slot machines. Various New York locations host “racinos” including the Yonkers Raceway in Westchester, Monticello, and, later this summer, at the Aqueduct in Queens. Operators of those racinos say they strongly support legalizing non-Indian casinos, according to The Capitol Report.

Gaming in New York is here to stay so for Cuomo, only one question remains: “How should it be done?”

The Oneida Indian Nation, which operates the Turning Stone Casino near Syracuse, may have an answer: Wait for statewide referendums to pass, which could take years, or quicken the process by cooperating with existing Indian-operated casinos.

Other groups, like the Coalition Against Gambling in New York, are opposed to any expansion. Some of their members object to gambling both on moral and ethical grounds and some say it violates the state’s constitution.

Cuomo reminded naysayers that “you already have gaming in other states.” Popular casino destinations like Atlantic City, N.J. and Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino are easily accessible to New York’s downstate population. The Wall Street Journal has reported that similar measures to expand gaming are under consideration in Western Massachusetts.

New casinos could mean big bucks. According to a study released in June, states with casinos raked in a total of $4.5 billion last year alone, an increase of 85 percent from 1998.

Lake George, already a popular Adirondacks tourist destination, has been floated as a possible site for a new casino. But don’t be surprised if casino king Donald Trump wants a say in selecting a location. According to the Wall Street Journal, he’s a significant Cuomo campaign contributor.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made it known that he’s exploring opening commercial casinos upstate to increase state revenue. Capitol Report’s Liz Ayers reports from Albany.

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