He spoke with reporters at the Capitol

New York Governor against new downstate casinos

"I am very skeptical about some casino deal put together by casino operators promising billions of dollars and everybody is happy," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has severely criticized a proposal to allow new casinos in the New York City area.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to reporters in the state Capitol on Tuesday. As reported by Lohud, Cuomo essentially ruled out a push by casino interests to speed up the process to allow new downstate casinos.

MGM, Genting and Sands have all been working the halls of the state Capitol in recent days to try to get state leaders to drop a moratorium on new casinos before 2023.

MGM wants a full-scale gambling license for Empire City Casino in Yonkers. Genting wants it for Resorts World New York City in Queens, and Sands is eager to build a new casino in the city.

However, the governor did not agree: "I am very skeptical about some casino deal put together by casino operators promising billions of dollars and everybody is happy."

In 2014, the state awarded licenses to three upstate casinos out of nearly 20 proposals for three regions of the state: the Albany area, Catskills and Finger Lakes/Southern Tier.

A fourth license was ultimately awarded to Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier, and the Legislature and Cuomo agreed to halt any new licenses until 2023 to allow the upstate casinos time to build their businesses.

A constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2013 allowed for seven casino licenses to ultimately be awarded in New York. So three licenses remain to be issued.

Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday that he's not particularly interested in opening the bidding for new casinos in the New York City area.

In recent months, powerful casino interests have been pushing to have the moratorium lifted before 2023, promising billions of dollars in new revenue and even offering to pay back the upstate casinos a portion of their collective $300 million in licensing fees.

Cuomo, however, said the whole idea sounds rushed and only to the benefit of the companies pushing the proposal.

The Democratic governor said the state was methodical when it did the first round of casino licenses, making sure the competition led to the best deal for the state.

MGM, which bought Empire City in January, wants to convert its racino with 5,200 video-lottery terminals into full-scale casinos with Las Vegas-style slot machines, table games and sports betting.

Genting wants to do the same thing with its massive racino in Queens.

Cuomo said he hasn't spoken to the legislative leaders or any of the casinos about the potential change ahead of the state's fiscal year that starts April 1.

"I’m dubious about it," Cuomo said of the casino proposals.

"And it’s a double bank shot: We’re going to open up downstate casinos, and we’re going to give money to the upstate casinos, but we don’t want to bid the licenses. We want to give them to existing enterprises."

He added, "Look, when we did casinos we were very careful because there’s a lot of money floating around and a lot of lobbyists floating around. And we were very careful to go through a process. It was primarily for upstate New York."

Local leaders in Westchester County have supported efforts by MGM to convert to a full-scale casino, but Sands has talked about having a competitive bidding process for any new casinos.

Sands. though, wants the moratorium to be lifted prior to 2023. On Tuesday, former Gov. David Paterson was at the Capitol talking to reporters about Sands' efforts and its commitment to hire minority-owned businesses. He is working on behalf of a firm helping Sands' pitch.

Upstate casinos, which have struggled to meet projections, haven't opposed any of this, largely because they could see a financial payoff from any new downstate casinos.

But Cuomo said the goal is still to let the upstate casinos establish themselves, particularly the closest one to the city, Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County, which has struggled.

“Long term, you’re still hurting the long-term competitiveness of those upstate casinos,” Cuomo said.

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