Gov. Andrew Cuomo is quietly negotiating deals with Indian casino operators that will impact where commercial casinos will be located in upstate New York.
Cuomo plans to guarantee the existing Indian tribes exclusive gambling rights in their respective region in return for tax revenue the tribes have withheld from the state. The deals with the Indian tribes would preclude Rochester and Syracuse from getting a casinos.
As a result, Saratoga Springs and the Catskills have emerged as likely locations for commercial casinos. Other possible locations include Albany, Poughkeepsie, Orange County and Tioga County. Meanwhile, Senate lawmakers met behind closed doors – yet again – to hammer out a bill that would allow five upstate casinos, including up to three in the Catskills and two video slot machine sites on Long Island.
The secret negotiations underscore how much the politics of gambling continue to take precedent over policy. The closed-door negotiations are akin to mob families meeting to carve up territories.
In short, New York’s entire gambling policy is taking place in secret. It is being drafted on the fly by lawmakers and lobbyists meeting in backrooms in Albany. There are no public hearings. There are no studies. There is no input from INDEPENDENT gambling experts. Once all the key legislative leaders are on board with the plan, it will then get rammed past the public.