Tonawanda News

July 31, 2013

Cuomo expected to sign over casino cash

By Mark Scheer mark.scheer@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to visit Niagara Falls today, apparently to formally announce the delivery of casino revenue to the state and the city.

Although Cuomo’s office did not issue a formal release about the visit, multiple local officials confirmed that the governor will participate in an event at 10 a.m. at Seneca Niagara Events Center inside Seneca Niagara Casino.

Those officials indicated that Cuomo is expected to discuss the delivery of casino cash from the Senecas to the state and, by extension, to the city.

In June, Cuomo joined Seneca Nation of Indians President Barry Snyder and other elected officials in and around the Falls in announcing an end to a four-year dispute that resulted in the tribe withholding tens of millions of dollars in gaming revenue from the state and, by extension, the city of Niagara Falls and other local host communities.

The city of Niagara Falls is owed roughly $89 million in casino funds to date.

On Tuesday, Cuomo formally announced the signing of the Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act, a new law that, pending approval of a public referendum this fall, would establish four destination gaming resorts in upstate New York. Cuomo hailed the proposed plan for gaming expansion in New York as a way to boost education aid for the state while boosting the local economies for tourism areas.

Among the components of the plan is the reaffirmation of exclusive Class III gaming rights for various Native American tribes, including the Seneca Nation in Western New York.

“Our focus has been to bring jobs and boost local economies in Upstate New York, where decades of decline have taken their toll in our communities,” Cuomo said. “This new law brings the state one step closer to establishing world-class destination gaming resorts that will attract tourists to Upstate New York and support thousands of good-paying jobs as well as new revenue for local businesses. For too many years, gaming revenue has left New York four our neighboring states. Today, we are putting New York state in a position to have those dollars spent here in our communities, which will benefit our local economies and tourism industries, as well as support education and property tax relief.”

Other aspects of the new law include:

• Authorization of up to four upstate destination gaming resorts to be selected competitively based on the economic development of each. Destination resorts are authorized for three regions — the Hudson Valley-Catskills area, the Capital District-Saratoga area and the Central-Southern Tier. No resorts will be authorized in New York City, Westchester, Rockland or Long Island. There will be a seven-year exclusivity period during which no further resorts will be licensed in the state.

• Regulation and Selection. The New York State Gaming Commission will oversee regulation of the gaming resorts and will determine the required minimum amount of capital expenditures and license fee required for applicants in each region.

• Benefits from increases in education aid. Ten percent of the state’s tax revenue in gaming resort areas will be split equally between the host municipality and the host county, with another 10 percent of the state’s share going to other counties in the regions to provide tax relief or educational assistance. Cuomo’s office said 80 percent of the state’s tax revenue will be used statewide for elementary and secondary education or property tax relief. The educational aid will be additive and not part of the state’s existing education aid formula.

• Problem gambling initiatives. Funds will be set aside for programs to assist individuals with gambling problems through the imposition of a $500 annual fee on all slot machines and table games. All destination gaming resorts will be required to develop “comprehensive problem gambling programs.”

• Preventing corruption. A state gaming inspector general’s position will be authorized to prevent corruption at the Gaming Commission.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.