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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y.
In an effort to replace revenue lost with the World Trade Center New York lawmakers passed the largest gambling expansion plan in the state's history.
State leaders hope to raise $1 billion annually within about three years from six new casinos, video betting terminals and joining the multistate Powerball lottery. "It was worth the struggle. It was worth the effort, worth the fight," Gov. George Pataki said of the legislation negotiated for months by lawmakers.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, gambling expansion became the vehicle for economic stimulus amid financial disaster. Pataki said the attack could cost the state $9 billion in lost revenue over the next 18 months, and state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has called the state's need for new money "desperate."
Lawmakers estimate New York could see revenues in 90 days from Powerball, which includes 21 states and Washington D.C., and cash flow from the new video terminals at five horse tracks in eight or nine months.
Casinos are planned in the Catskills, Buffalo and Niagara Falls, where officials complained for years that tourist dollars were flowing to a casino in neighboring Canada. New York currently has two Indian casinos - one near Utica and one near the Canadian border.
The gambling deal has its detractors. Some in Buffalo say the city's estimated 6.25 percent share of slot machine revenues is not enough and a Seneca faction say sharing profits with the state would compromise the tribe's sovereignty. The initiatives are also likely to be challenged in court.