01/18/2012 5:20PM

New York Gov. Cuomo to support merger of racing, lottery panels

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
The casino at Aqueduct could get thousands more gaming machines.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to support legislation this year that would merge the state’s racing and wagering board with the lottery commission, according to a 2012 budget proposal he submitted to the legislature on Tuesday.

The merged entity would be called the New York State Gaming Commission and be responsible for overseeing all gambling activities in New York, including the New York Lottery’s supervision of the state’s casinos. The nine existing racetrack casinos in New York have become a significant source of funding for New York since the legalization of slot machines at most New York tracks in 2001, raising nearly $1 billion in money for the state’s education fund in the most recent fiscal year, according to lottery financial statements.

Cuomo’s support for the merger dovetails with an effort to gain legislative backing for a proposal to allow Genting, the Malaysia-based operator of a casino at Aqueduct, to install thousands of additional gambling machines in exchange for a commitment by Genting to build a convention center at the track. The proposal, which has not yet gained wide support, has raised questions about the future of racing at Aqueduct.

Under the provisions of a proposed bill that Cuomo sent to the legislature that would allow for the merger, New York’s governor would appoint all five members of the new regulatory commission. The five initial members would be appointed to staggered five-year terms, and any member of the commission could be removed “at the governor’s discretion.”

Under current law, the governor appoints all three members of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate,” according to the current statute. Under that law, no more than two of the members can be affiliated with the same political party. The draft legislation submitted Tuesday does not include any requirement regarding political affiliation of the appointees.

The budget also includes a proposal to allow the state to treat uncashed parimutuel vouchers like uncashed parimutuel tickets. Currently, pari-mutuel tickets are converted to revenue for the state if they are not cashed by April 1 of the following year in which they were placed, while parimutuel vouchers are treated as abandoned property if they are not redeemed after five years. The change would also allow the state to convert the vouchers into revenue as of the April 1 date each year, even though the state does not treat vouchers obtained by casino patrons the same way.