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Lawmakers Consider Slot Machines To Help Cash-Strapped City

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It took years to rid Times Square of prostitution and drugs, but now state lawmakers might invite another vice - gambling - straight into the heart of Manhattan, in the name of helping the city.

NY1’s Davidson Goldin filed the following story.


Slot machines in Times Square? Sources tell NY1 that top state lawmakers think they're a good bet for the cash-strapped city.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is threatening what he calls “doomsday” budget cuts if Albany lawmakers don't come up with $$1 billion in cash for the city.

But the mayor doesn't want to balance his budget on gambling. Told of Albany's proposal for video lottery terminals, spokesman Ed Skyler said the mayor does not feel they are “an appropriate way to fund government services."

That said, Bloomberg could be running out of options. The mayor wants a city income tax for commuters, but Albany's Republicans, whose base is in the suburbs where commuters live, nixed that idea.

Albany sources said lawmakers are considering a temporary income tax surcharge, but that money would go to help the state's budget own budget deficit.

Sources said lawmakers in Albany have agreed to a tax on so-called absentee landlords — people who don't live in the homes they rent; that would bring the city a quarter billion dollars a year.

As for the gambling the mayor doesn't want, state sources said video lottery terminals throughout the city could bring in at least $$300 million in taxes. The slot machines would most likely be located in expanded off-track betting parlors. Times Square is at the top of the list

There is one hitch: old-fashioned slot machines are outlawed by the state constitution. But officials said video lottery terminals, which in New York use debit cards instead of coins, are a big and lucrative, loophole.

They're already used at the Oneida Indians' Turning Stone casino outside Syracuse. And in 2001, the state-approved video lottery terminals for seven racetracks, including Aqueduct in Queens. But racetrack owners are haggling with the state for a bigger cut of the profits and so far haven't installed the machines.

As for Times Square, it may be too early to give odds.

--Davidson Goldin
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