Cuomo creates the conditions for a casino ‘feeding frenzy,’ and that may be the point

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Happy gamblers. (foxwoods.com)
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Gambling institutions and interest groups are stepping up their lobbying efforts after Governor Andrew Cuomo's successful first step toward legalization of casino gambling in New York, Jim Odato reports.

As part of last week’s legislative all-nighter, the legislature passed a bill allowing full-fledged casinos, complete with table games like blackjack and poker (complete with human dealers) in New York State. It's the first step in the three-step process required to amend the state constitution. The legislature also has to vote the same way next year, and then send it to the voters for a referendum.

The governor has cited as a rationale for changing the state constitution the peculiar fact that some electronic table gambling and electronic slots are legal in New York while regular gambling is not. In this weekend's New York Times Magazine, Michael Sokolove discusses the strangeness of the current situation here:

What’s a V.L.T.? It’s a slot machine.

Under New York state law, however, slots are illegal. With a V.L.T., the result of each play is determined by a central computer and not by circuitry within the machine itself, as is the case with slot machines. That somehow makes it legal.

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The progress toward full casino legalization in Albany, Odato says, is prompting a "feeding frenzy," because the legislation allows only seven casinos, while the New York Gaming Association, which is one of the main lobbyists for casino gaming legislation, has nine members. And then there are all the outside players who are angling to get a piece of the action, like Steve Wynn, who's been trying to get into the New York market for years now.

Odato notes that by allowing up to seven casinos, but specifying none in particular, the legislation denies the Malaysian gaming giant Genting “a clear path” toward winning one of those seven golden gambling tickets.

Genting has poured a lot of money into lobbying the governor and the state legislature to approve a full casino for the slot-machine venue it now runs adjacent to the Aqueduct racetrack in Ozone Park.

Genting has also proposed building a $4 billion convention center there, which is one of the centerpieces of Governor Cuomo’s economic development agenda. It’s widely believed that Genting will only build that convention center if it can add table gaming to the mix at the racino next door.

That said, a "feeding frenzy" may be exactly what the governor is looking for.

According to one lobbyist I talked to, “I think he really wants to see a real vigorous competition between all of the major gaming companies and I think they believe within that competition they’ll get the best deal."