Cuomo promises a ‘transparent’ casino selection process, and says there will always be a role for Javits

Happy gamblers. (foxwoods.com)
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Governor Andrew Cuomo this afternoon promised to set up a "transparent" commission that will select casino operators for New York State, once casino gambling is legalized.

Asked at a press conference today whether the commission would be subject to the Open Meetings Law, which requires that public bodies hold public meetings, the governor said, "Yes."

When a reporter pointed out that politicians, when they appoint commissions, still control them, the governor said, "Well, not if you put together a real commission."

(The governor has a mixed record on transparency.)

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He also said, despite earlier plans to replace Javits Convention Center with a bigger, better convention center in Queens, he sees a future for Javits.

Late Friday evening on former governor David Paterson's radio show, Cuomo revealed that discussions with Malaysian gambling giant Genting to build a $4 billion convention center and casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens "haven't really worked out." He said that instead, he would set up a competition and solicit bids from the other casino and convention center operators vying to break into the state's growing gambling market.

New York State is in the process of legalizing table games like poker and blackjack at seven still-to-be-determined sites in New York State.

Today, Cuomo said that Genting would be able to compete in that competition—"If Genting wants to compete, God bless them"—but he said that the final decision would be made not by him but by a "transparent" commission.

"What we’ve talked about is, part of the legislation, we would set up a commission and the commission would actually make the decisions," he said today, following a press conference about decriminalizing the public possession of small amounts of marijuana. "I don’t want to make the decisions. I don’t want the legislature making the decisions. I would set up the commission and let the commission make the decisions on what is the best plan."

The governor also distanced himself from Genting, the company he mentioned by name in the book accompanying his State of the State address earlier this year, reminding reporters that, "Genting was picked under Governor Paterson," referring to the competition for video slot-machine rights at the Aqueduct Racetrack.

Speaking of racinos, the governor said he was opposed to putting casinos at so-called "racinos," which are basically racetracks with slot machines, and said that, contrary to former statements about replacing Javits Convention Center with a new convention center at Aqueduct, he doesn't foresee a future without Javits.

"I don’t believe, I wouldn’t ancitipate—you'd need a fully study done—but I would always see some facility at Javits," said Cuomo.