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Casino siting bill included poison pill for racinos

By Lombardo David
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The state Legislature's point men on gambling acknowledged that a provision in the casino siting bill was included to force the racinos into backing a referendum that will allow up to seven live-table non-indian casinos.

If the referendum this fall were to fail, the siting bill includes language that would create free standing VLT parlors all over the state. The provision was touted as a way to maximize the state's potential revenue, but Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Democrat from Yonkers, and state Sen. John Bonacic, a Republican from the Catskills, both said at a casino gambling forum on Wednesday that it was a way to keep the state's nine racinos from lobbying against the referendum.

Pretlow described the safeguard as "the stick hiding behind the carrot” and Bonacic said it was designed to be punitive and “they were intended to keep the racinos honest."

Before this measure was added, the New York Gaming Association, which represents the state's racinos, was opposed to Cuomo's casino siting plan. Once this poison pill was added, the racinos supported the plan.

NYGA President James Featherstonhaugh said at the time that the changing position was due to the bill's new tax rates. Regarding the provision that would allow new VLTs if the referendum failed, he said it was a reasonable path for the governor to consider if he was looking to increase the state’s revenue.

Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus had a different view, saying, “I would love to know what the real intent of that is, other than political motivation."

At Wednesday's forum, Featherstonhaugh reiterated NYGA's support for the referendum and predicted it would pass.

A full story on Wednesday's forum, which was hosted by Albany Law School, will be in the Thursday issue of the Daily Gazette.

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