By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the state's nine racinos on Monday, saying he will move forward with additional video-lottery-terminal facilities if a referendum on casino gambling in November is rejected by voters.
Cuomo knocked the nine racetracks as "very well-financed players," and he said they won't be able to expand to become full-fledged casinos without a competitive bidding process. The racinos first began to open in 2004 after legislation in 2001 allowed the state to have video-lottery terminals at racetracks.
"They expect another gift, like the first gift: They should just become a casino, and I'm not going to do that," Cuomo said on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public-radio show. "I think the way we did racinos in the first place was a mistake."
Gannett's Albany Bureau first reported Saturday that Cuomo circulated new casino legislation that would allow the state to add video-lottery facilities across New York if a casino referendum in November were to fail. The move was seen as a way to tamp down the racinos' opposition to Cuomo's plan, which would allow the state through a bidding process to add up to seven privately owned casinos-with the first four in upstate.
"If the referendum fails, we're not just going to go away and say go to New Jersey and go to Massachusetts and do your gaming there," Cuomo continued. "We'll do more VLTs, which is what we now do."
Cuomo and lawmakers are negotiating the details of the casino legislation. Four casinos would have exclusivity to operate for seven years before the last three could be opened.
The first four would be limited to the Southern Tier, Capital Region and the Catskills after Cuomo reached deals with three Indian tribes to have exclusivity in western, central and northern New York.
Legalizing casino gambling would be a change to state constitution and therefore would need voter approval.
The casinos threaten the racinos, which have had a booming business in recent years. They have argued that they should be allowed to add table games and have pledged to add amenities, such as hotels and entertainment centers.