ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he doesn't want to make a "knee-jerk" reaction when it comes to allowing more casinos to open in downstate New York.
Cuomo again urged caution as powerful gambling interests press for an expansion of casinos in the New York City area, particularly efforts to let Empire City Casino in Yonkers and Resorts World New York City in Queens have full-scale gaming.
Cuomo didn't include any casino expansions in his budget plan last month for the fiscal year that starts April 1, despite pledges from gambling giants of $500 million each to the state for new licenses.
"These are complicated issues, and I am skeptical about quick, knee-jerk reactions to doing something like that, especially if it’s conditioned on money," Cuomo responded to an off-topic question during a news conference at the Capitol about new federal Medicaid cuts.
The MGM-owned Empire City and the Genting-owned Resorts World are eager to get state approval for two of three remaining casino licenses in New York, while the Las Vegas Sands Corp. is also lobbying to open a casino in New York City.
New York has a ban on new casino licenses until 2023 to allow the four upstate ones, including Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County, to develop their businesses. But the gambling giants are hoping to pressure lawmakers and Cuomo to lift the ban sooner, hoping to entice the state with additional revenue amid a $6 billion deficit.
Empire City and Resorts World in Queens have video-lottery terminals and electronic table games owned by the state. They want to be able to add privately owned slot machines, live table games and sports betting.
Cuomo, however, has taken a cautious approach to casino expansion, and the Democratic-led Assembly has also been leery of adding more gambling.
Last year, casino companies made a big push to get the moratorium lifted, but Cuomo then also quashed their hopes.
"Let’s go open new casinos because we need money," Cuomo argued hypothetically. "Well, let’s study the system; what does it mean; where do we need it; what would be the effect on upstate casinos."
Indeed, the state is studying the future of gambling in New York and whether to allow for mobile sports betting, which is now only allowed on-site at the four upstate casinos.
A first draft of a report from the state Gaming Commission is expected in early April, although likely after the state budget is finalized.
That would give the sides until the end of the legislative session in June if they want to consider changes to New York's gambling laws this year.