One day after hosting a tourism summit in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a casino gaming plan which he says will help create jobs and boost tourism in upstate New York.
Under Cuomo's plan, three "resort gaming destinations" would be located in upstate New York. For the purpose of siting the casinos, upstate New York has been split up into six regions. Each region could only have one casino. (A map showing the regions is posted below.)
Cuomo also factors in already existing Indian casinos, like Turning Stone in Verona and the Seneca-owned casinos in western New York. Right now, two Indian nations have zones of exclusivity in New York. (The Senecas are one of them.) If the compact between the nation and the state is in good standing, Cuomo said, casinos won't be built in regions where the zone of exclusivity exists.
In the case of the Senecas and the state's compact with the nation, Cuomo said his administration has been "speaking with the Senecas on a regular basis." But if it's determined that a compact is not in good standing, the region will be opened up for non-Indian casino gaming, Cuomo said.
But the main purpose of Cuomo's plan is to boost the economy, particularly in upstate New York. He sees casino gaming as an opportunity to not only create jobs, but also help boost tourism.
"This proposal fits right into yesterday's summit," Cuomo said, referring to Wednesday's tourism summit. "We believe this could be a great regional asset to actually spur additional tourism."
Cuomo stressed the importance of helping upstate New York boost its economy and getting the region out of its economic slump.
"Upstate New York has very serious problems. You don't feel it as much in the Capital District region, frankly, because you have the government here. You have nanotech here, which has been an extraordinary success and, in some ways, unique to the Capital District region. Upstate New York is struggling. Upstate New York has been struggling for multiple generations. Western New York has been declining for decades and decades," Cuomo said. "We need to do something to help upstate New York. It has to be dramatic. It has to be big. We're very good at finding reasons not to act. There's always a reason not to act. There's always a risk. There's always a potential. Doing nothing is no longer an alternative because we've been doing nothing for a long time. You can chart the graph of doing nothing and that line goes straight down. It goes population decline. It goes young people leaving upstate New York. It goes tax revenues going down, jobs going down. We've done that. We've done that for many, many, many years. If you want tomorrow to be different than yesterday, then do something different. Do something different.
"This is a big idea that we believe could bring economic energy to upstate New York that needs it desperately. And that's what we're talking about."
According to the governor's plan, number of jobs created, amount of capital investment and projected revenue to local governments and the state will be criteria used to select resort gaming destinations. Local support, amount of franchise fee and vision for development to collaborate with the area's tourism industry will also be criteria utilized in the selection process.
Cuomo's proposal calls for an independent selection commission, which would include finance and real estate experts, to be used to select the casino sites. The state Legislature would not be a part of the process.
"We do not want a politically determined outcome," Cuomo said when addressing whether state legislators will have a role in the selection process.
Racinos, which currently exist in New York, will be allowed to compete in the resort gaming destination selection process. The winning casino projects will receive a five-year exclusive period, according to Cuomo's proposal. No other casinos would be sited in upstate New York or New York City during that period.
As for the revenues earned by local and state governments, Cuomo's proposal calls for 80 percent of the revenues to go to the state, 10 percent for the county where the casino is located and 10 percent for other counties in the region.
Before non-Indian casinos are built in New York, the state Legislature must pass the constitutional amendment allowing casino gaming and voters must approve it. The state Legislature passed the amendment last year, but must pass it again this year.
UPDATE: Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif issued this statement on Cuomo's casino gaming proposal:
"Our number one priority continues to be the creation of new jobs, especially Upstate, so we're eager to review the Governor's proposal."