Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that he will “100 percent oppose” giving the state’s racetracks exclusive rights to build full-scale casinos in the state.
New York’s nine racetracks that have video-lottery terminals have been heavily lobbying Cuomo and the state Legislature to give them the rights to build casinos in the state. The state Legislature this year passed the first of two constitutional amendments to allow for up to seven casinos.
But Cuomo said he wants an open competition, and he won’t necessarily give the racinos the jackpot of being able to open casinos, which would have table games and other amenities.
“The current racinos currently argue that the selection should be limited to the current racinos,” Cuomo told reporters today. “I 100 percent oppose that — 100 percent. I believe it should be an open competition where we bring in the best companies and get the best deal for the taxpayer that we can get.”
Cuomo said a major deal for a $4 billion convention center and casino at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens was scuttled in part because the developer, the Malaysian-based Genting Group, wanted exclusive gaming rights in the New York City area.
“I was not prepared to start making representations about where we would put casinos and where we wouldn’t put casinos,” Cuomo said.
The Legislature earlier this year passed a constitutional amendment to legalize casinos, but didn’t specify where they would located. The Legislature would have to approve the amendment again in 2013, and then it would have to be approved by voters in November 2013.
But the amendment hasn’t designated where the seven casinos would be located. Cuomo plans to appoint a commission to study potential sites and make the casino licenses open for competitive bidding.
In western New York, the casino issue is complicated because the Seneca Nation of Indians have exclusive gaming rights in the region, stretching from Buffalo and east of Rochester. But the tribe has withheld more than $300 million in payments to the state in recent years, claiming the current three racinos in the region are infringing on their rights.
Cuomo said if the Senecas don’t pay, then their exclusivity might be nullified. He suggested that Senecas’ holdout might allow for private casinos to be located in western New York.
“Contracts cannot be one-sided instruments. The contract basically said for these payments, the state will grant this exclusivity,” Cuomo said. “Well if there are no payments, then you would argue there is no exclusivity. If you want the exclusivity – which was our end of the contract – then you would have to live up to your end of the contract.”