Governor Andrew Cuomo, making his first public appearance in Albany in 103 days, sparred with the press on Wedensday after a speech at the MWBE Forum (at which he proposed to raise the participation of businesses owned by Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises in state contracting to 30%). It went on for around 21 minutes, despite the efforts of an aide to cut it down to 'one more question' at around the four minute mark. Yeah, fat chance that was happening. The video is contained in this link.
At the 8:52 mark, the governor, looking quite relaxed after visiting Afghanistan in his continuing effort to keep us all safe, was asked if he expected the recommendations from the casino location board before Election Day.
"I believe, Jimmy - I have to check - I believe we said in the State of the State when we first announced it, it would be towards the end of the year. I don't remember exactly what I said in terms of timing, but I have no reason to change what we had set out originally."When again asked specifically if it would be before or after the election, Cuomo said:
"I just don't remember what we said the timing was. Do you remember what we said the timing was? [Before election day.] Well, then that's what it should be."For the record, this is what the governor said in the State of the State:
Our challenge now is to make casinos a reality, make it happen, make it happen fast and make it happen correctly...our current plan is March 2014 for the RFP to go out, bids come back in June and we hope to make the selections in early Fall.Well, that really clears things up! Fall started on Sept 22 and runs through 6:03 PM EST on Dec 21. Since Election Day falls on November 4, I suppose it's up for interpretation as to whether that qualifies as early fall. Robert Williams of the Gaming Commission said:
“They remain confident they can reach a decision in late October but have already indicated that if the volume of materials requires, they will take the time necessary to appropriately deliberate.” [Daily Freeman]Hmm, that doesn't really help much either. Given the sheer volume of that voluminous material, it's hard to imagine that these guys could make a reasoned decision within the next five weeks. Unless their decision is going to be based on things other than reason; then the decisions could be announced tomorrow. (And depending on the result, we may conclude that they might as well have been.)
I've said all along that I do not believe it is happening before the election. As long as the result is up in the air, one would think that any anger directed at the governor could be muted due to the uncertainty. Once it's announced, all emotions are at play...and I think they will be more likely to be negative than positive. That's of course unless he.....I mean, the location board.....decides that a license (or licenses) should go to the Catskills rather than to Orange County. Then I think we could see the decision prior to Nov 4, as Cuomo could benefit greatly in the polls in that region.
- Like the Empire City Casino at Yonkers, Mitchell Etess, the CEO of Mohegan Sun, smarting from his defeat in Boston and hoping to build a casino at The Concord in the Catskills, wants us to know that he's not buying Genting's claim that a casino at Sterling Forest would not be detrimental to them. "It’s not possible for anyone else to survive if there’s one in Orange County," he told the Crain's editorial board. Etess says they won't build if there is any casino in Orange. However, he wouldn't mind one 20 miles away at the Nevele. "Gamblers like to have two places to go......They like to have an option." As long as they are both located similarly distant to NYC, I suppose. Currently doesn't seem too likely that the Catskills will get two licenses anyway.
Here's an excellent article from City and State, which considers all of the economic and political factors and comes up with some possible scenarios. Including this one, which I have ranked as one of the more likely:
That dynamic [Cuomo's original indication that at least one casino would be sited in the Catskills] could benefit the “northern” Orange County sites, including the Grand Hudson Resort & Casino proposed by Alabama-based Greenetrack at Stewart International Airport [unlikely -ed.]; the Hudson Valley Casino & Resort in Newburgh by Rush Street Gaming and Saratoga Casino and Raceway; and Resorts World Hudson Valley, Malaysian gambling giant Genting’s second proposal in the county. What sets apart these proposals—which range from $670 million to $1 billion—from the three southern Orange County bids, in terms of their relation to Sullivan and Ulster Counties, is their location some 20 miles north of Route 17—the main artery to the Catskills. Some analysts say this means that a northern Orange County casino could realistically co-exist with a Catskills casino, while one in the southern part of the county could effectively block New York City-area gamblers from visiting Ulster or Sullivan counties.Empire Resorts is the only one of the three Catskills bidders who have said that they would build (the Montreign or Adelaar or the whatever-they're-calling-it casino at The Concord) even if there was a casino in northern Orange; albeit a smaller one that their grand proposal. (A smaller facility there might be more appropriate than what they are proposing as their best-case scenario in any case, as the article suggests.)
So, how about this: a license goes to the Hudson Valley project in Newburgh, and to Adelaar. That would check a lot of boxes. The Catskills would finally get their casino. Jimmy Feathers would get his. Genting would not (Cuomo is probably not too enamored of them anyway), but its chairman does have an interest in the majority shareholder in Empire. Gural could get his at Tioga, Hard Rock or Howe Caverns would get the Capital District license (Rush Street, bidding in Schenectady, is Feathers' partner at Hudson Valley), and a lot of people would be happy. Except for the losing bidders and the gamblers who end up losing their money.
- As we mentioned, and as you probably know, Cuomo was in Afghanistan pretending to be "learning" about terrorism in a place where he didn't have to deal with those annoying reporters for 21 minutes despite his aide's futile attempts to get him away. Bill Hammond wrote a piercingly astute column in the Daily News about the governor's sudden interest in security. (During the gaggle, Cuomo made what was apparently a clumsy attempt to disparage the piece, saying that 'the Daily News says that we don't need security.' Which is not what Hammond said. He said that we don't need politicians who take a sudden interest in the topic, not mentioned in any of Cuomo's State of the State addresses, five weeks before Election Day.) The column featured this photo.
Liz O'Connell had tweeted me earlier that Cuomo's trip reminded her of Michael Dukakis. I wasn't sure exactly what she was referring to until I noticed that picture. Remember this?
Not surprisingly, the Astorino campaign tweeted out the photos side by side. If I recall correctly, that picture didn't work out so well for the former governor of Massachussets.
Seems odd that, as astute as Cuomo and his aides are said to be, they violated the golden rule that governors with no foreign policy chops should not be photographed in a chopper, or a tank. Though at least Cuomo dispensed with the helmet, if not with the goofy smile.
When pressed by reporters as to whether he would work for a Democratic State Senate, as he pledged to do in his deal to get the Working Families Party ballot line, Cuomo was once again evasive. "Yes. But running on my record doesn't hurt them. Because my record is their record. If you're a Senate Democrat running for re-election, what do you say? Unemployment down, credit rating up, more jobs than ever before, four budgets on time, marriage equality. That's my record too. Right?" Right. But that doesn't answer the question of what he will, or will not, do to uphold his promise to the WFP. There are Democrats running for seats that are open or currently occupied by Republicans. And indeed, when asked if he would endorse the incumbent Republican Senator Mark Grisanti (running on the Independence Party line after losing his primary), who voted for same-sex marriage but staunchly opposes key aspects of his agenda such as the Women's Equality Act and the Dream Act, he demurred. "I haven't made a decision yet." That's one decision he'll have to make before Election Day.