ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed Wednesday to authorize four upstate New York casinos designed to drive jobs and tourism to the long economically distressed area.
The agreement will allow Las Vegas-style resort casinos in the Southern Tier near Binghamton, the Hudson Valley-Catskills area and the Albany area. One region may get two casinos and that will likely be in the Catskills, which has a tradition of resort development.
The deal also authorizes two video slot centers of 1,000 machines each on Long Island run by the off-track betting agencies of Suffolk and Nassau counties.
Voters will have the final say this fall. Voters would have to pass the referendum allow up to seven non-Indian casinos statewide over several years.
"This legislation is a major step forward in our efforts to both capitalize on this economic development and tourism potential and end the trend of letting neighboring states with legalized gaming take revenue that should be going to our schools," Cuomo said.
All of this is subject to a referendum in the fall. New York voters will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment to overturn the ban on full-fledged casinos off Indian land. That vote isn't certain. A Siena College poll shows New Yorkers are split on the proposal, including in New York City where the biggest turnout is expected because of the city's mayoral race.
The agreement prohibits casinos in Westchester and Rockland counties, New York City and on Long Island for at least seven years, to give upstate casinos a chance to flourish. No casinos will be located in zones around Indian tribes operating their own casinos under federal law.
A commission appointed by Cuomo and legislative leaders will pick operators for the casinos on a competitive basis. High marks will be given to proposals with the largest share of profits returned to government and with established integrity of the casino developers based on their previous record of projects.
The deal also makes the percentage of casino profits shared with government comparable to the share now provided video slot machine centers called racinos at race tracks. That is aimed to create fairer competition for operators.
Communities where casinos are located will share in revenues and most of the state's revenue would be devoted to public schools. Cuomo has estimated all casinos when in full operation will provide $1 billion a year to government.
The agreement also imposes a $500 fee on every slot machine and table game at casinos to be used to address gambling addiction.
"We feel there should be no amendment at all to legalize casinos in New York state because the social costs to the people of New York that go with adding the casinos will be much bigger than any payments to the state and to any so-called funding of education," said Dr. Stephen Shafer of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York.
He said the bill's provision for funding to help problem gamblers could end up being five times more than is currently spent by the state, "but it's still not enough.
"The problem with helping problem gamblers is that most of them don't go for help until they have ruined their lives and the lives of people around them," Shafer said.
The measure also outlaws new, online gambling games called "cyber sweepstakes cafes."
More deals are expected to be announced Wednesday for action by the end of the 2013 legislative session this week.
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