Last Updated: 6:43 AM, September 19, 2011 - NY Post
Posted: 12:35 AM, September 19, 2011
Place your bets! Top Albany lawmakers are ready to approve Las Vegas-style casinos for New York state — including the city.
Both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos have individually told The Post that they would back a constitutional amendment legalizing slots, table games and card games in New York — saying the casinos would provide a huge windfall for the state’s coffers.
With the Legislature’s most powerful men on board, the next Bellagio or Borgata could end up right here in New York City -- and maybe even Manhattan.
Silver (D-Manhattan) said he would be willing to have at least one casino in New York City -- at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, where Malaysia-based Genting Resorts is building a massive “racino” that features slot machine-like video games.
“We have it all over, in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, in Native American casinos in New York, so we might as well take part in the revenues that come from casino gaming,’’ Silver said.
He added that casinos should be permitted everywhere except in “the middle of inner-city” neighborhoods that have heavy populations of poor people.
“I’m not averse to doing it, but I don’t want to do it all over the state. I think resort areas are appropriate, and it certainly shouldn’t be in the middle of the inner cities,” the speaker said.
“People shouldn’t be able to lose a month’s salary on their lunch hour,’’ added Silver, who has long backed a casino in the Catskills.
As for Skelos (R-LI), he “is supportive of a constitutional amendment that will let the people of New York decide,’’ said spokeswoman Kelly Cummings.
The green light from both leaders means an amendment is certain to pass the Legislature next year and then again, as required by law, in 2013, when it would go to the voters for a final OK.
Their support comes just a month after Gov. Cuomo said New Yorkers should “come to grips” with the economic benefits of casinos.
Officials have said casinos would create thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues.
A Cuomo administration source called Silver and Skelos’ commitment “important’’ and “significant.”
Currently, the only gaming allowed in New York is computerized “lottery” games at racetracks or on American Indian land.
In 1997, the Democrat-controlled Assembly approved a state constitutional amendment legalizing casino gambling -- but it was killed in the GOP-controlled Senate.
At the time, the Republicans came under enormous pressure from New Jersey gambling interests, including Donald Trump, to reject the measure.
Skelos also said areas should be protected from being inundated by too many casinos.
“Limits should exist . . . to make sure there is no oversaturation of casinos in certain regions and to take into consideration community impact and support,’’ said Cummings.
In August, Cuomo raised the possibility of legalizing Las Vegas-style casinos in order to create jobs, to compete with an expanding number of gambling venues in neighboring states, and to win a share of the untaxed profits now being garnered by Indian-owned casinos upstate.
Cuomo also hired prominent gaming-industry expert Bennett Liebman to develop a plan for all of the state’s gambling outlets, including thoroughbred and harness race tracks, Off-Track Betting parlors and racinos.
Last week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a measure authorizing three full-fledged resort casinos, including one bordering New York