Cuomo presents a scaled-back casino plan

Cuomo on Wednesday. (via governor.ny.gov)
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Governor Andrew Cuomo today called for the creation of three full-scale casinos upstate, a proposal which appears to be a scaled-down version of the casino legalization plan he presented this time last year.

In his State of the State book last year, Cuomo called for full-fledged casinos, but did not specify where they would be located. According to various reports in the Times, he was considering proposals for casinos in New York City, including at the Aqueduct. Today, in his State of the State speech, Cuomo ruled out downstate entirely. 

Right now, table games with human dealers are illegal in New York State, and to become legal, require a constitutional amendment, which, in turn, requires approvals by two successive legislatures and then a voter referendum.

In 2012, the legislature passed the first of those approvals, allowing up to seven casinos statewide.

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Today, Cuomo scaled that back to three, at least in "phase one," and all of those three would be located upstate and none, he made expressly clear, in New York City.

"We propose a casino gaming plan to boost upstate development," he said, pointing to the 8.2 million residents of the city, and the 50 million tourists who visit there every year.

"A major challenge for us, and a major opportunity for us, is to get that traffic from New York City to upstate New York," he said, adding, "And I believe casinos in upstate New York could be a great magnet to bring the New York City traffic up."

According to the governor, 90 percent of the resulting tax revenue would go to support education, while 10 percent would go for local tax relief.

He also said communities "should have a right to support or not support [casinos] and that should be a factor in the selection of the facility at that location."

At least some of the Indian tribes that already operate full-scale casinos on their reservations oppose the broader casino legalization effort, and one of them contributed the seed money for a group called New Yorkers for Local Approval of Casinos.

Today, in a statement, the group's spokesperson said, "As always, it's about the details. Local input only matters if there's a vote by a local legislative body or a local referendum or both."

A spokesman for the governor argued, in a phone call this afternoon, that the constitutional amendment will still call for "up to seven" casino licenses, and since the first three are merely "phase one," his plan has not been reduced in scope.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated incorrectly that Cuomo referred in his 2012 State of the State speech to locating a casino at Aqueduct. He didn't refer to specific casino locations in the speech.