By Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed Wednesday to build three private casinos in upstate New York as part of its plan to boost the upstate economy.
Cuomo will call on the Legislature to approve the plan during the legislative session, and then the measure would go to the voters in November.
"We propose a casino gambling plan to boost upstate development," Cuomo said during his State of the State address.
Where the casinos would be located would be decided by a panel set up by the governor. He said there would be no casinos in New York City, and the upstate casinos would be targeted toward boosting tourism.
The casino proposal was part of a variety of initiatives mentioned by Cuomo to help the sagging upstate economy, which Cuomo said has not even kept pace with the still-struggling national economy.
"We need an additional focus on upstate New York. There have been decades of decline in upstate New York," Cuomo said. "When you look at the job growth in upstate New York, frankly, it is sad and it is troubling."
Cuomo's announcement is a change from what he and the Legislature backed last year in a constitutional amendment. The amendment allows up to seven casinos in the state.
The constitutional amendment would still be valid, but the number of casinos would be limited to three. Cuomo called it phase one, and aides said more casinos could be approved in the future. He said the casinos would promote tourism and help downstate New Yorkers, in particular, to appreciate the resources upstate.
"I believe casinos in upstate New York could be a great magnet to bring the New York City traffic up," Cuomo said.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, said the focus shouldn't be on casinos.
"I'm not sure I'd like to focus in on casinos for an upstate economy rather than advanced manufacturing, tourism and agriculture," Kolb said.
Cuomo laid out a number of other economic development proposals. They included:
-- Starting innovation hot spots that would be 10 tax-free zones to promote high-tech manufacturing.
-- Lowering workers' compensation and unemployment insurance.
-- Creating a NY Green Bank with $1 billion in seed money for clean energy development.
-- Developing Taste-NY to promote New York-grown products.
-- Establishing a $5 million advertising competition to promote upstate.