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Long Island casino in play during negotiations

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By MICHAEL GORMLEY Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A proposal to build a major Long Island casino with video slot machines is part of closed-door negotiations to expand casino gambling in New York, according to the head of the Nassau County Off-Track Betting Corp. and a legislative bill.

The bill with majority party sponsors proposes a casino with 2,000 video slot machines run by the off-track betting agencies in Nassau and Suffolk counties. That could cement critical Republican support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's statewide casino proposal.

Cuomo and legislative leaders are negotiating a plan to authorize three Las Vegas-style casinos. Cuomo publicly proposed three upstate casinos.

"It's huge," Nassau County OTB President and CEO Joseph Cairo told The Associated Press. "The Senate has indicated to me it is part of the discussions of the overall (casino) package."

Cairo, who is also the county Republican chairman, said he has spoken to Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Nassau County about the proposal, which has quietly been discussed for months in Albany. He said they spoke of a proposal to build a video slot casino on the Nassau-Suffolk line, where it could draw from Long Island's 3 million residents. He said another version would create two facilities, each with 1,000 video slot machines.

"I think the senator is conceptually behind it and I spoke to him many times," Cairo said.

Asked about the role of the proposal in closed-door casino negotiations, Skelos' spokeswoman Kelly Cummings said: "We continue to discuss all aspect of the gaming and casino issues in the five weeks that remain in session."

The bill sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Englebright, a Suffolk County Democrat, states the facility would include "superior consumer amenities and conveniences to encourage and attract the patronage of tourists and other visitors from across the region, state and nation." He didn't respond to a request for comment.

The Senate bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Phil Boyle of Long Island.

Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing denied the proposal is part of the private negotiations the governor is holding with legislative leaders.

"Nassau and Suffolk have been pushing this proposal for several years," Wing said. "It has and is not part of any casino gaming negotiations or discussions."

In Albany, the closed-door "leaders meetings" between the governor and legislative leaders are secret. Major proposals often aren't announced until a deal is struck and quickly rushed to a vote in the Legislature without public hearings.

The proposal would be contrary to Cuomo's public demands that his gambling commission chose vendors; that operators, not the Legislature, be involved in choosing sites; and that privately run casinos be restricted to upstate.

A video slot machine casino run by Nassau and Suffolk OTBs would maintain the Legislature's hold on patronage jobs in the facility.

Most of the nine existing "racino" centers, which offer video slot machines but not table games, have grown quickly. Their operators argue they are the best candidates to be turned into the privately run casinos Cuomo proposes for upstate and, five years later, the New York City area.

AP-WF-05-16-13 1517GMT

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