With much fanfare in the State Capitol, the governor and leaders of the Oneida Indian Nation announced the outline of an agreement that on its face resolved virtually all of the long simmering issues between New York state, local governments and the Nation. The agreement still requires several layers of government approvals, and addresses long standing issues including land claims, pricing differentials in cigarettes and gasoline, local government revenue sharing and more. Most importantly, for the immediate future was an understanding that the Oneida’s will receive exclusive rights to casino gaming in a 10 county region of Central New York (Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and Otsego counties). Although the arrangement is not dependent on the state’s push toward development of non-Native American casinos, one expects that the Oneida’s will not engage in an effort to stop the state’s efforts. Ray Halbritter, President and CEO of the Oneida Nation, is known as a shrewd negotiator and one has to wonder who will be the long term beneficiary of this announcement when the dust settles. Has the changed landscape now shifted the odds of added casinos in New York?
If the governor has his way, New York voters may see a referendum this fall asking if they want Las Vegas-style casinos operating in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday he is in favor of getting a casino referendum on the November 2013 ballot and he would back plans to build new casinos near those currently operated by the Senecas, Oneidas and Mohawk-St. Regis tribes. Here’s the rub: the governor will allow casinos to compete with the Native Americans if the Native American contracts with the state are not in place. He used the ongoing debate with the Senecas as an example of an arrangement that needs improvement.
As reported by Tom Precious in The Buffalo News, Senate Republicans are currently drafting legislation and a plan which could be presented to Governor Cuomo as soon as today. The legislation would restrict the first round of casinos to locations in “Sullivan County in the Catskills, the Tioga area west of Binghamton, and Saratoga or Washington counties north of Albany,” according to State Senator John Bonacic.
The press report points out all three areas are currently home to racetrack-based casinos, with the plan not including regions surrounding the Seneca Nation of Indians’ Western New York casinos or the St. Regis Mohawk gambling hall in Northern New York. Left as a possibility is Central New York, where the Oneida Indian Nation currently operates the Turning Stone Resort Casino, and notably does not have a revenue sharing agreement with the state.
According to the report, the plan also calls for a timetable, with the first casino being licensed for the Catskills by June 2014, with casinos in Southern Tier of New York or Saratoga “within six months to a year after that.”
Earlier this morning at an event sponsored by City & State and moderated by Managing Editor Jon Lentz, the respective chairs of the Senate and Assembly racing and gaming committees, Senator John Bonacic (R – Mount Hope) and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D – Mount Vernon), provided some previously unreported insights into their thinking concerning the expansion of casino gaming in New York and a proposed constitutional amendment on the subject.
In an Op-Ed in this morning’s edition of the New York Daily News, the governor authored a piece on his legislative agenda. Among the items on the list was the expansion of casino gaming. Showing no departure from his three casinos in upstate model, the governor had this to say:
In our first ever blog post, we set a course to be informative and insightful on the issues of racing and gaming in New York. At the same time, we decided that if anything, we would not be boring. To that end we blogged, “. . . we realize that all work and no play makes Jack the Blogger a dull boy, so we will occasionally add a chippy or pithy entry.” Today is one of those days. The Kentucky Derby is one of the great spectacles in American sports. For one day each year, the country looks to Louisville, Kentucky and marvels at the beauty and speed of the thoroughbred in action. Add pageantry, tradition, a state song, a wager or two and a mint julep, and you have the “Run for the Roses.” With twenty 3-year olds scheduled to start, the choices are many. Here’s who our editorial team likes, and why. Join the fun in our “comments” section and add your selection for the record.
A point we have made on this blog many times in the past is the impact that the fall New York City elections could have on a fall ballot measure to amend the state constitution to allow up to seven non-Indian casinos in the state. Polling on the issue confirms that the percentage of New York City voters who favor the measure is roughly 10 percent less than those in upstate New York. Without statewide elections to drive upstate voters to the polls in November, a skewed turnout in favor of New York City could defeat the ballot measure, effectively killing casino expansion as it is currently envisioned. Reports from the Capitol Building suggest state leaders are trying to figure out how to structure a plan that will appeal to a majority of voters.
In our first two installments in this series, we followed the trail of one of many New York-breds who went through the sales ring at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales company (“OBS”) that was held April 22-25, 2013. New York-breds were popular at the sales and the Utopia-Miramar Miracle colt was no exception. Originally purchased for $27,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling sale, the professional-looking colt was purchased for $55,000 by AliFyfe Racing (Marette Farrell, agent). According to its web site, AliFyfe racing is the creation of Alistair Fyfe. The outfit utilized agent Marette Farrell on the purchase. Joan Scott trains for the team in Kentucky and New York. According to sources, the colt is fit and ready. Perhaps we will see him at Saratoga or Belmont later this year.
State leaders huddled behind closed doors for more than an hour Tuesday afternoon to discuss moving forward on the expansion of casinos in New York. Central to the conversation was the process of how to determine where casinos will be sited, and who will make that decision. Legislative leaders have argued that they should have a role in designating acceptable zones or regions for casino placement. Legislators also assert that resolution of the siting issue is a prerequisite to moving forward on second passage of legislation to amend the state constitution to create up to seven non-Native American casinos. Governor Cuomo on the other hand has argued that his newly created Gaming Commission should be empowered with the decision-making authority to site casinos.
The powerful chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee has announced that he will introduce legislation to move the state toward the expansion of casino gaming in the near future. In remarks made to Capital Tonight’s Nick Reisman in the halls of the State Capitol, Senator John Bonacic (R – Mount Hope) said he was introducing the legislation to jump start discussions with the governor’s office. Senator Bonacic also stated that the second passage of legislation allowing for a November ballot measure would be linked to the casino siting legislation.
Echoing a common refrain from legislators on the need for certainty on siting before asking New Yorkers to vote on the casino expansion, Senator Bonacic said, “I believe that in order to pass the referendum in November you have to let the voters know where the licenses could go. There has be more transparency and I think that would enhance the chances [for amending the constitution].”
Senator Bonacic’s district is in the southern Catskill Mountain region of New York. Many anticipate that at least one of the seven casinos to be sited will be in this region, if the state constitution is amended.