By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday that would create four upstate casinos if approved by voters in November.
The Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act is aimed at boosting tourism upstate, Cuomo said. The state Legislature approved the plan in June.
"This new law will bring the state one step closer to establishing world-class destination gaming resorts that will attract tourists to Upstate New York and support thousands of good paying jobs as well as new revenue for local businesses," Cuomo said in a statement.
The plan calls for a change to the state constitution to allow for private casinos in New York, which requires voter approval on the Nov. 5 ballot. The four casinos would be selected by a siting commission and would be located in three regions: the Albany area, the Catskills and the Southern Tier.
The four casinos would have gaming exclusivity in the state for seven years, and no new casinos would be authorized in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, New York City or Long Island during the period.
Last spring, Cuomo reached deals with Indian tribes for gaming exclusivity in central, northern and western New York, including in the Rochester area.
The state's nine racetracks have sought to expand their video-lottery facilities into full-scaled casinos. They initially balked at Cuomo's proposal but eventually backed it, because it was changed to give them parity with any casinos that located near their current gaming halls.
The plan also allows for two video-lottery facilities on Long Island run by Off-Track Betting.
Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, Orange County, said he's hopeful at least one casino in the Catskills can improve the local economy. He has wanted at least two in the region, which includes Dutchess and Ulster counties.
"Casino gaming surrounds us in other states," Bonacic, who heads the Senate Gaming Committee, said in a statement. "By legalizing it in New York, we can create thousands of jobs and allow for billions of dollars in investment. Gaming can substantially improve the Catskills economy."