ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York may yet have commercial, non-Indian casinos as part of a comprehensive gambling plan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
The first mention in years of bringing traditional casinos to New York, like those lining Atlantic City and Las Vegas, comes after the state spent three years cutting spending on health care, education and most other areas to fend off deficits.
"It's a topic we are looking at actively," Cuomo said when questioned about commercial casinos.
Casino mogul Donald Trump has been a campaign contributor to New York Democrats for years, including donating at least $60,000 to the state party since 2008. Trump also donated $38,000 to Cuomo in 2009 and 2010, while Trump's daughter, Ivanka, donated another $8,000 to Cuomo.
The state has added Indian-operated casinos under the federal Indian gaming act and electronic slot machines at many horse racing tracks beginning shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks that plunged New York into then-record deficits. Cuomo wants to replace that piecemeal approach with a comprehensive plan.
"The gaming issue is an issue this state has to come to grips with," Cuomo said.
"Well, we have gaming in the state," he said. "So now you have to go the second step: If there is going to be gaming how do you do it. That question is something we are presently looking at."
Cuomo's statement reached casino operators quickly.
"Resorts World New York fully supports creating thousands of new jobs across the state by giving consumers more choices and look forward to working with those in Albany who want to do the same," said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the casino developer.
Cuomo indicated casinos, long thought to be blocked by the state constitution, might not require a lengthy constitutional amendment process before they can be opened in New York. The constitution restricts traditional slot machines and other casino games, but electronic variations of many of the traditional table games and video slot machines appear to avoid the constitutional barrier.
Cuomo's comments drew immediate reaction from the Oneida Nation, operator of the Turning Stone casino and entertainment complex in Central New York.
The state can pursue a lengthy constitutional amendment, "or it can bring gaming to the state promptly and assuredly under already-existing laws by working closely with its in-state Indian nations to enjoy immediate revenue sharing which would benefit the entire state," said Oneida spokesman Mark Emery.
Powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, has often curbed efforts to increase state gambling beyond extensive lottery games, horse racing and video slot machines at race tracks. He has argued there is a social toll in problem gambling and oversaturation of gambling options.
There was no immediate comment from Silver or Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island on Cuomo's comments.