SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, January 6, 2012—My hometown of Saratoga is conservative by both convention and politics. The apparel of choice here, where winters can test your resolve, on balance, remains Republican cloth.

But it matters not on which side of the aisle you lean here, or the entire Capital District for the matter, or on one of my many forays downstate, the message is remarkably the same and considering the subject matter, nigh impossible.

I have never, ever, heard a disparaging word about our state’s present Governor. An approval rating of 75%; it’s the damndest thing, really.

I was a fan of his father’s, as were many, although I can tell you that Mario Cuomo wasn’t on everyone’s favorite list, at least not to the extent enjoyed by his son Andrew, the present Governor.

So it was with great interest on Wednesday that I tuned my television to a station other than the local OTB network.

I was curious to see if his auditory matched his dad’s, by all accounts extraordinary. Of greater import, however, was what he had to stay about the state of gaming in the Empire State.

“We have been in a state of denial for a very long time when it comes to gaming,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo emphatically told both Houses of the Legislature and every other mover and shaker in the room during his State-of-the-State address.

“We already have it. We have Tribal Casinos across the state. We have racinos across the state. We have 29,000 electronic gaming machines in the state, more than in Atlantic City, more than the entire Northeast combined. But we don’t capitalize on it."
“We are surrounded by casinos on virtually every border. We are in the gaming business already but we’re not doing it very well. We should be doing better.

“This is not about chips and cards, it’s about one thing: jobs, jobs, jobs,” an applause line in a long series of applause lines sprinkled throughout the address.

Then, referring to badly needed revenues being left on the table, Governor Cuomo went further.

“Let’s amend the constitution so that we can do gaming right. Let’s make it safe, be competitive, and get jobs back in New York. There’s a billion dollars’ worth of economic impact here. We need jobs.”

By doing gaming right, Cuomo means introducing Las Vegas-style table games at already existing racinos, including the Resorts World Casino-New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack, one that thus far has exceeded expectations.

Cuomo made no specific references to racing except to explain that one of the racinos was at Aqueduct Racetrack but his actions say he's more a fan of racing than any of his recent predecessors, including his father.

And given his stated intention to bring back, create, and save existing jobs, it is unlikely Andrew Cuomo would allow the deterioration of a revenue producer that is the lynchpin of the state’s billion dollar agribusiness.

Some things just need to be taken on faith.

The other, more significant indicator is that the Aqueduct-Resorts World property will become an important cog in the city and state’s economic engine; the construction of the world’s largest convention center, and a hotel complex, on the Aqueduct grounds.

It is expected that the Genting Group which operates and constructed the Aqueduct casino would develop the new convention center.

The $4 Billion price tag for the convention center is part of a $15 billion infrastructure package--an amalgam of federal, state and private sector investment. The package includes another $1 billion investment in gaming.

Of course, the State of the State was about much more. “Thirty-two percent of our bridges are deficit; 40 percent of our road are rated ‘poor’ and 83 percent of our parks and major dams are in disrepair.

“One in every six children lives in homes without food. Let’s stop fingerprinting families who need food and eliminate the stigma of food stamps.” And there was so much more:

A second round of economic development grants and $1 billion to incentivize investment in poverty-riddled Buffalo; a restructuring of pension plans; a special education commission free from Legislature-controlled Board of Regents. He didn’t stop there.

Cuomo called for the repair of 2,000 miles of road, replacement of 100 bridges including the heavily traveled Tappan Zee Bridge; giving farmers access to low-interest loans; initiate real campaign finance reform; expanding the DNA databank and private sector investment to move existing power in the western and northern parts of the state to downstate where it’s needed most.

Among the creation of 25,000 new jobs expanded gaming would bring, in addition to recapturing the $3 to $5 billion New Yorkers spend at casinos outside the state, there is one other factor that would be good news for horse racing in this state, according to the New York Gaming Association.

It is recommended that any further casino expansion should be restricted only to racetrack sites.

Change New York horseracing fans can believe in? We’ll see. To hear Andrew Cuomo speak about it, one gets a sense that anything’s possible.