Sen. John Bonacic, who heads the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee, is warning that New York City lawmakers shouldn’t look to add more than one casino in New York City without expanding the number statewide.
Bonacic, an Orange County Republican who has long advocated for casinos in the Catskills, said reports that a few sites are being considered for New York City shouldn’t infringe on plans to build casinos elsewhere.
“While existing harness tracks and Aqueduct are no sure bet to receive a casino license, the focus has always been a maximum of one in New York City,” Bonacic said in a statement. “We should not be expanding the number of casinos in New York City beyond one, unless the overall number is increased. There are many regions north of New York City that want world class resort destinations associated with a casino license. Those regions should not be deprived of that opportunity.”
The state Legislature in March passed the first of two constitutional amendments to legalize up to seven private casinos in New York. The state hasn’t decided where they would be located, and voters would have to approve the change to the constitution at the polls next November.
In 2001, the state Legislature and Gov. George Pataki approved up to six Indian-run casinos — three in western New York and three in the Catskills — as well as allowing video-lottery terminals at the state’s racetracks. While the Senecas have opened the three in the Buffal0 area, the effort to build three in the Catskills never came to fruition.
Bonacic said that if Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, is looking at more than one New York City site, Silver should increase the casino allotment to 10. Bonacic said Silver has a “long-time affection for the Catskills” because he owns a home there.
“If the speaker is open to more than one facility in New York City, I think there would be strong interest in overall increasing the number of facilities from 7 to 10, so that traditional resort areas like the Catskills could be in a better position to secure two or more casinos,” Bonacic said.