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Cuomo, legislative leaders announce deals

Michael Gormley, Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New Yorkers could see some new high-technology employers enjoying a decade of tax-free living and five Las Vegas-type casinos under deals announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders.

Cuomo's Tax-Free New York program seeks to retain start-up businesses spawned from university research in New York and attract employers from outside the state in industries aligned with public and private colleges. It would offer 10 years without business or even personal income taxes, with the hope that a company would be established and unlikely to move afterward.

Tax-Free New York had a mixed reception. Some business leaders are upset newcomers would avoid New York's high taxes. On Wednesday, the program had a new name: Start Up New York. Cuomo, a Democrat, said the name is more descriptive.

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos said the program is part of what must be New York's top priority: Reduce taxes and create jobs.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, said the program will bolster colleges that will work with companies aligned with academic disciplines and help communities in economically distressed areas, most of them upstate.

The program is the "bold and creative ideas" New York needs to attract employers from Western New York to the Bronx and Long Island, said Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares control of the Senate with Republicans.

The casino agreement will allow Las Vegas-style resort casinos in the Southern Tier near Binghamton, the Hudson Valley-Catskills area and the Albany area. One region may get two casinos, and that likely will be in the Catskills, which has a tradition of resort development.

The deal also authorizes two video slot centers of 1,000 machines each on Long Island run by the off-track betting agencies of Suffolk and Nassau counties.

All of this is subject to a referendum in the fall. Voters will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment to overturn the ban on full-fledged casinos off Indian land. That vote isn't certain. A Siena College poll shows New Yorkers are split on the proposal, including in New York City, where the biggest turnout is expected because of the city's mayoral race.

The agreement prohibits casinos in Westchester and Rockland counties, in New York City and on Long Island for at least seven years, to give upstate casinos a chance to flourish.

Communities where casinos are located will share in revenues, and most of the state's revenue would be devoted to public schools. Cuomo has estimated all casinos when in full operation will provide $1 billion a year to government.

The agreement also imposes a $500 fee on every slot machine and table game at casinos to be used to address gambling addiction.

Dr. Stephen Shafer, of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York, said the provision for funding to help problem gamblers could end up being five times more than is currently spent by the state "but it's still not enough."

"The problem with helping problem gamblers is that most of them don't go for help until they have ruined their lives and the lives of people around them," Shafer said.

The 2013 legislative session is scheduled to end this week.