Niagara Gazette

January 12, 2013

GLYNN: Casino issue returns to upstate New York in 2013

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette —  Whenever you hear talk about boosting economic development in upstate New York, don't get too excited.

It could be just another promise to funnel state funds into Poughkeepsie, Glens Falls or Old Forge in the Adirondack Mountains, a favorite summer place for the state chief executive and his family. Even if the target area is Western New York, the Buffalo-Niagara region may be left out of the loop.

Now Gov. Cuomo has gone up on the mountain — his recent State of the State gave that  impression — to announce his vision for three new casinos to bolster the struggling upstate communities. 

The Cataract City, of course, is not part of the governor's grandiose scheme because Niagara Falls already has an Indian-operated casino and, as Cuomo explained, the state certainly has no intention of breaking any compact with the Native Americans. He told reporters Thursday: "We're not going to violate any contracts that are in good standing. Get them to go upstate and use the casino/resort destination as the magnet to bring people up," Cuomo added. Part of the problem is defining "upstate."

What's hard to believe in all this casino hype is that countless tourists visiting New York are going to fly, drive or ride Amtrak upstate to bet at any casino. These sites will be glorified gambling halls, nothing as glitzy and inviting as the palaces in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Imagine, for a fleeting moment, a casino in Newburgh, upstate by Cuomo standards. You could easily spend a whole week there some Saturday night after you quit playing the slots.

Some observers familiar with Cuomo's uncanny ability to shift strategy on key issues contend that, if the state ends up legalizing casino gambling, he may eventually decide that downstate also needs to boost its economy (e.g. a casino at the refurbished Aqueduct Race Track.) You may recall the governor had that in mind when he suggested the state-of-the-art convention center at that track in the Borough of Queens.

FOOTNOTE: Before anyone starts celebrating the dawn of another job creation, it should be noted the second passage of the casino gambling measure — mandated to amend the state Constitution — will be extremely difficult. Many members of the Senate and Assembly probably won't even agree to vote on the legislation until specific sites are listed. And if that happens, you can expect late-night heated debates, lengthy arguments over which communities are hurting the most, and a sharp increase in lobbyists in the Capital Region. If by some quirk of fate, however, the lawmakers complete the second passage, the referendum could be on the November ballot.

At this point, the governor appears to be absolving himself from the delicate selection process. "Let the market and let the experts tell us where the optimum location is to site a casino to maximize revenue," he said.

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SCALPERS AT WORK: Remember when presidential inaugurations were free? Obviously the seats for the swearing-in ceremony have always been limited which is why members of Congress were issued those tickets to distribute free for the Jan.21 event in Washington. D.C. 

Those same tickets, for whatever reason, are starting to show up for sale on eBay and Craiglist. Two days ago they were going for upwards of $2,000 on the online black market. The Presidential Inaugural Committee is reportedly looking into the matter. No doubt the committee will get to the bottom of the scam by July.

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FAVORITE FLICK: A headline in the New York Post: "Oscar Vote Triumph: Abe Re-Elected," a reference to Stephen Spielberg's movie "Lincoln," topping the nominations for "Best Picture of the Year.

Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.