ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s new budget proposal to have one of his state agencies pick the locations of possible casino sites in New York is being met with resistance from the leader of the Assembly.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Thursday the Legislature should be able to play a role in choosing where casinos are located, and the decision should not be left solely to the governor’s new State Gaming Commission.
Silver said exact regions of the state do not have to be specifically identified before his house takes up second passage of a resolution to amend the State Constitution permitting up to seven new full-scale casinos in the state. That vote is set for this session unless the sides can’t come together on a separate “enabling” bill providing more details about the casino expansion efforts.
If state voters approve a casino referendum, likely in the fall, Silver made clear he does not back Cuomo’s plan to let the decision about where the gambling halls may be located left in the hands of the new Cuomo-controlled state agency that will regulate all forms of gambling in the state.
“We want a method by which the Legislature has input into the determination as to where the casinos will be, what the timing will be on it,” Silver said in an interview outside his Capitol office.
“I don’t think we have to identify specific regions. We have to identify the method by which we ultimately get there,” Silver said.
The Cuomo administration did not comment Thursday.
The resolution passed last year is vague about where the casinos will go, who will decide on sites, and how much companies that operate casinos might have to share with the state or local host communities. A separate piece of legislation to accompany the resolution’s consideration again this session is supposed to clear up some of those blanks.
In his budget this week, Cuomo proposed the first three casinos be located somewhere upstate. He did not say where the remaining four could go. Additionally, the casino selection determinations under Cuomo’s budget would be made by the new commission, whose board will be dominated by Cuomo appointees when he names them before the agency comes to life on Feb. 1.
A major fight brewing is whether any of the casinos will be located in New York City. Silver said he could support some specific locations, such as the Willets Point section or Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, and Coney Island in Brooklyn.
But he said the casinos should not be located in densely populated areas, which would include all of Manhattan, as well as central areas of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
Asked if people couldn’t just easily take mass transit to the areas he now believes casinos could be located, Silver said, “Yes, but my concern is that somebody doesn’t go out on their lunch hour. You have to take a half-hour trip or hour trip to get there.”
Silver said he has heard talk of developers interested in high-end casinos in Manhattan – with high entrance fees as a way to appease lawmakers concerned about low-income people losing money in conveniently located casinos.
“I don’t like the idea,” he said.