Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today he would focus only on three areas of upstate for three casinos and stay out of Indian tribes’ regions if they reach exclusivity agreements with the state.
Cuomo threatened to open up bidding for the three proposed casinos to the western, northern and central parts of the state if the tribes that operate casinos there don’t reach financial agreements with the state. The tribes and the state have been at a stalemate for years.
The Seneca Nation of Indians operates three casinos in the Buffalo area and owes the state about $500 million because of a dispute over its gaming rights. The Mohawks run a casino in northern New York and also owe money to the state, Cuomo said. The Oneidas operate the Turning Stone Casino and Resort near Syracuse, and its 20-year-old compact with the state doesn’t require it to share any revenue with New York.
Cuomo said he wants a deal with the tribes before the legislative session ends June 20. If so, he would limit the casinos to the other parts of upstate: the Southern Tier, Capital District and the upper Hudson Valley/Catskills.
The Senecas’ gaming rights extends through the Rochester area. Cuomo said he has not had discussions about a potential casino in Rochester, and his top aide Howard Glaser said there have not been specific talks about that possibility.
“There have been proposals, but not a direct part of any of our discussions,” Glaser said.
Cuomo and state lawmakers are working on a deal to allow up to seven privately owned casinos in the state, with the first three to be located upstate. Cuomo said the specific locations of the three casinos would be decided by a siting panel.
The three casinos would have exclusivity to operate in the state for five years, then the others would be designated — with at least only to likely be put in New York City. The state Legislature would have to approve the plan this year, and the issue would need to be approved by voters on the November ballot.
“The premise of this plan is: Let’s use it because it’s one of the few big assets we can bring to upstate New York, but it’s driven by the absence of a casino in New York City,” Cuomo explained.