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New York Casinos: Gov. Cuomo's Plan Could Bring Gambling, Convention Center To Manhattan

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ALBANY, N.Y. -- The world's top developers will soon compete to propose a convention center and casino in or close to New York City, possibly including Manhattan or the Belmont race track, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Now, the massive convention center proposal could be part of the mix in which the Cuomo administration plans to authorize up to seven private-sector casinos, if voters agree to a constitutional amendment next year.

The casinos would join nine so-called "racinos" which offer video slot machines at harness racing racks. The state already has five casinos run by Indian tribes under federal law, as well as "Quick Draw" games at bars and extensive lottery games.

On Monday, Cuomo said he wants a gambling commission with members appointed by himself and legislative leaders to choose the casino sites, not the Legislature or governor directly. He said the commission should operate under the state Open Meetings Law and Freedom of Information to maximize public accountability after a series of past scandals when gambling was expanded in the state.

The process may take more than a year and depends on voters approving a referendum to rewrite the state constitution to allow Las Vegas-style casinos, which are now confined to Indian land. That approval remains uncertain and Cuomo has said it will be a difficult sell among New Yorkers.

Likely locations for casinos include the Catskills and Western New York, in addition to a potential casino in Manhattan and at Belmont race track, the site of the third jewel of racing's Triple Crown.

He said Monday that planning continues for a project that could bring a casino to Manhattan or a convention center and casino package with lavish hotels to the outer boroughs. Other possible sites are the Yonkers race track or one of the publicly owned islands off Manhattan.

Previous proposals for casinos in Manhattan, however, have been opposed by Cuomo and ruled out by Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. On Monday, Cuomo said a casino would be inappropriate for Manhattan, but he hasn't ruled it out.

The effort comes after Cuomo's landmark plan for Aqueduct race track in Queens fell through. On Friday, Cuomo mentioned on WOR Radio in New York City that talks fizzled on an economic development centerpiece of his State of the State speech in January. Cuomo had also secured a nonbinding letter of intent from the Malaysian-based Genting group to fund the $4 billion convention center that could lead to a casino when after the referendum.

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