By Tom Precious
ALBANY -– Identifying specific geographic locations for possible new casino sites is not the approach Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will take next year in negotiations with legislators over gambling expansion plans.
Cuomo told reporters today that he wants to have a more “open’’ process where casino developers who know the marketplace best can help the state determine where any new gambling halls might be located.
The issue will be a major sticking point next year as Cuomo and lawmakers debate whether to give a second passage to a change in the state constitution to permit up to seven full-scale casinos located on non-Indian lands. Some lawmakers want specific areas identified as definite potential sites, while others have talked about broader regions. If the second resolution is approved, then voters statewide would consider the issue in a November 2013 referendum.
“I would like to see a competition where we have the ability and opportunity to attract the most exciting, aggressive proposals from the best operators in the world. And then we get to pick among the best options and my druthers would be a more flexible, open process to get the best applications, the best plans that we can,’’ Cuomo said when asked if he wanted specific communities, counties or regions identified before lawmakers consider a second vote on the constitutional amendment resolution.
When the first resolution was passed last year, all sides said they were punting until 2013 on a number of details, such as possible locations, franchise fee payment arrangements to the state by operators and whether communities would get to hold their local referendum votes -– as done in some other states -– if the broader casino approval is given.
Under Cuomo’s plan, it would appear voters in a statewide referendum might not know what locations the state had in mind for casino developments at the time of their vote. “They could know regions or parts of the state, but I wouldn’t limit it by picking a location because that assumes you’re picking the best location from a market point of view. I would leave it to the operators, the experts, to say you tell me within these regions of the state where you think the best market is, where would you site it to maximize economic opportunities, maximize job growth, etc,’’ the governor added.
Cuomo was down on the idea of letting local communities hold their own votes after any statewide referendum to approve or disapprove a casino being located in their areas. He said the “will of the communities’’ can be included, for instance, in any competition the state might hold for operators interested in coming to New York.
“So, I believe communities should have a voice. Whether or not it’s a vote, I don’t know whether I’d get into elections and holding elections, but the feeling of the community is relevant and important,’’ he said.