01/10/2012 4:41PM

Cuomo backs expanded gambling, convention center at Aqueduct


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter Tuesday afternoon to the state’s legislative leaders urging them to consider a plan to expand gambling at a casino at Aqueduct and accept a proposal from the casino’s operator to build a convention center at the track.

The letter asked Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to meet “in the coming weeks” with representatives of his office and of Genting, the Malaysian company that was selected by the state to build and operate the Aqueduct casino in 2010.

Cuomo unveiled the plan for the convention center during his “State of the State” speech on Jan. 4, immediately drawing criticism that a deal with Genting had been reached behind closed doors. Although Cuomo has said that Genting’s proposal would not require state action other than legislative approval, he has linked his support for the project with the expansion of gambling at the Aqueduct site, including the approval of table games.

In the letter, Cuomo reiterated his support for a constitutional amendment allowing gambling to be expanded. Under New York law, a constitutional amendment has to be passed by two consecutive legislatures and then ratified in a public referendum.

“That referendum would be at best two years from now – if ever – and should be considered as a separate issue from these current proposals,” the letter said. “We would hope that the Aqueduct project could be finalized within one year on an expedited time frame.”