Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 23, 2013

Senate bill shows state looking upstate for casino placement

Niagara Gazette — ALBANY — Closed-door negotiations to expand casinos in New York call for five upstate casinos, including up to three in the Catskills and two video slot machine sites on Long Island, according to the bill released Thursday by Senate Republicans.

A potential deal between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians keeps Niagara Falls and the Western New York region off the list.

According to the Albany Times Union, two people with knowledge of talks, say Cuomo and Seneca Indian Nation President Barry Snyder Sr. are considering a deal that Snyder recently outlined to the 16-member tribal council.

It's expected that any deal between the state and Senecas would settle the ongoing casino cash stalemate. The Falls is awaiting $60 million while the state is owed $600 million.

Thursday's bill calls for a Las Vegas-style casino in the Southern Tier's Tioga County; one in the Albany region, which includes Saratoga County, home to Saratoga Race Course; and one in Washington County, which includes a shore of Lake George. After a five-year wait while the first casinos establish themselves, the bill calls for another one in Westchester County or Queens, or elsewhere in upstate New York.

A constitutional amendment to be put to voters in November authorizes up to seven casinos but doesn't identify where they would be located.

The bill released Thursday also calls for two video slot machine casinos run by off-track betting agencies in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The bill would study whether to authorize more casinos limited to video slot machines and electronic table games elsewhere in the state.

Currently, the video slot machine casinos, sometimes called "racinos," are legal only at horse racing tracks and aren't run by off-track betting agencies.

Sen. John Bonacic, who sponsors the bill, said the video slot machines for Long Island are an important "sweetener" for the overall casino bill. They are pushed by Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Nassau County.

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