New York holds first expanded casino gambling meeting

New York CityAfter a year of jostling and debating, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders have finally gotten their heads together to discuss the governor’s plan to expand casino gambling in New York. Not  a whole lot came out from their first sit-down, but holding these talks nevertheless served the purpose that both sides appear to be ready to engage in some sort of reasonable discourse with each other.

Gov. Cuomo has long been a driving force of expanded casino gambling in New York. Last year, he laid out a dramatic plan that centered on the objective of authorizing “up to seven” such gaming establishments in the state, beginning with “phase one” project that would involve the setting up of three destination casinos in New York.

Talking to The Buffalo News, Cuomo used the word “evolving” as the default word of the day during the meeting; it might not sound like a concrete sign of progress, but it’s something that ought to be cause for optimism from proponents of expanding casino gambling in New York. Besides, numerous issues seem to have been ironed out, including the agreement on a provision wherein a new state gambling commission will select developers should new casinos be permitted. This development was ironed out after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver came out last week and voiced his opposition on letting the governor’s gambling commission have the power to pick the development sites.

Now that the sides have come to an agreement to create a new state gambling commission, Gov. Cuomo appointed Robert Williams, the current director of the New York Lottery and a former legal counsel for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, as acting director of the new commission. Williams brings with him a ton of experience, having also held the title of executive director of the New York State Committee on the Future of Racing.

In addition to the set-up of the new commission, which becomes active on February 1, an agreement was also hammered between the sides that voters won’t be left out in the dark of any statewide referendum involving counties that would be eligible for the first phase of the governor’s plan. The sides did come to an understanding that the Catskills, a floundering resort destination that has definitely seen better and more prosperous days, should be up in the running for one of the early slots.

There are still a lot of issues to be dealt with, but regardless of what issues are still up for discussion, it certainly appears that there has been some ground covered on the issue of expanding casino gambling in the state. That, in itself, can be considered a victory.