NY to Consider City-Wide Ideas for Center, Casino

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Governor Andrew Cuomo says the world's top developers will soon compete to propose a convention center and casino in or close to New York City.

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.

Even Cuomo has said that will be a difficult sell among New Yorkers. But he says 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.

“I don’t believe Manhattan is the appropriate venue for a casino,” Cuomo said Monday. “There’s a lot of other possibilities besides Manhattan.”

He said "proximity" to New York City was important, but wouldn't offer specifics.

Other possible sites are the Yonkers race track or one of the publicly owned islands off Manhattan.

The governor announced Friday that his grand plan for the nation's largest convention center at Aqueduct race track had been scrapped.

Speaking on WOR-AM late Friday, Cuomo said the proposal unveiled as a centerpiece of his State of the State speech isn't going forward, but he hopes to have developers compete next year for a project that could include a casino. Genting, a little-known Asian company, is one of the biggest gaming conglomerates in the world.

As WNYC reported earlier this year, the Lim family already had a toehold in the city:

Over the years, the Lim family, the company’s largest shareholder, has expanded Genting in all directions — from casinos across Asia and Britain to oil wells in China and Morocco and palm oil plantations in Malaysia.
Last year, Genting established a foothold in the Big Apple: the racino at Aqueduct Racetrack, which is already considered a success. In the first 10 days, bettors spent more than $160 million, and Genting sent $15 million in taxes to Albany.

The governor faced criticism for signing a non-binding agreement with Genting ahead of his State of the State speech. The lack of transparency raised concerns among good government groups.

Cuomo grabbed headlines earlier this year when he announced plans to build a massive convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens that would include an exhibition center, hotel and expanded casino. It would replace the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s West Side.

"It’s crazy, crazy, crazy," said Haywood Sanders, a profesor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who studies the economics of convention centers. "It’s a great piece of political theatre and gives the governor a chance to grab headlines with a grand announcement. But as a piece of public policy and as a mechanism for economic development it’s effectively unworkable."

Cuomo said in January the $4 billion convention center would help boost the economy and allow a new use for the Javits Center in Manhattan. Aqueduct is a possible site for a casino if an amendment to the constitution is passed.

Associated Press contributed reporting