Niagara Gazette

January 10, 2013

State casino plan appears to leave out WNY

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A day after announcing his plans to support the development of three new casino in upstate New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told members of the press in Albany on Thursday that the proposed gaming expansion won't infringe on areas where gambling compacts are currently in place. 

"We're not going to violate any contracts that are in good standing," Cuomo told reporters. 

The governor's statements would appear to preclude Niagara Falls and other local communities from the expanded gaming conversation as the Seneca Nation of Indians has an existing gambling compact that gives it exclusive rights to operate slot machines across Western New York and as far east as Rochester. 

That is, of course, provided the state continues to deem the Seneca Nation's compact "in good standing." Both sides are currently at odds over revenue tied to the gambling compact and the matter is now headed for arbitration. The tribe has been withholding revenue payments - now totaling $350 million - to the state to protest what it considers to be violations of its exclusive rights, including expanded state-run gaming options at area racinos, including one at the Buffalo Raceway in Hamburg. 

During Thursday meeting with the press, Cuomo also reportedly said that he does not envision a New York City casino as part of what he's described as "phase one" of the state's plan for expanded gaming, suggesting that the opening of a facility in the Big Apple would run counter to the plan's purpose, which is to drive tourism and revenue to communities upstate. 

Cuomo in his State of the State address proposed that an expansion of gambling in New York begin upstate.

In elaborating on Thursday, Cuomo told the Associated Press he believes casino operators will bid higher and strike more lucrative revenue deals for the state over upstate casinos if New York City isn't an immediate option. He indicated that New York City may be a possibility in the second phase of casino expansion. 

State lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment last year that would allow for legalized gaming in New York at up to seven casinos. A second approval of the measure would be needed this year to move the plan to the next phase - a public referendum on the proposed amendment.