Casino in Schenectady officially gets its license; All I Want For Christmas...is a drone; Gov. Cuomo to use pardon power

The New York State Gaming Commission on Monday unanimously approved licenses to resort gaming destinations in Sullivan, Schenectady and Seneca Counties. The most local of these - Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady - will be a $320 million investment and include a 51,000 square-foot gaming floor, 1,150 slot machines, 77 table games, public green spaces on the riverfront and a new 150-room hotel, according to the state Gaming Commission, adding that approximately 1,300 permanent jobs will be created. In November 2013, 57 percent of New York voters approved a constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling. Ten months later, three gaming halls were proposed for the Southern Tier, four in the Albany-Saratoga Region, and nine in the Catskills and Hudson Valley region. A spirited debate took place in Saratoga Springs.

A fourth facility, Tioga Downs Casino Racing and Entertainment in Nichols, was also selected by the Gaming Facility Location Board and is currently undergoing the Commission’s licensing review process. WAMC’s Lucas Willard takes a historical look at how we got here.

An unnamed businessman who owns real estate in Florida submitted a written offer for a mansion belonging to entrepreneur/convicted felon/philanthropist David Silipigno, reports the Albany Business Review. The offer satisfies the terms of the auction, which set a $4.9 million reserve price plus a 10 percent premium on the 25,000-square-foot house in Meadowbrook Estates. In July, the price of the home was listed at $8.6 million.

What the birds see: One of the hottest items folks have put on this year’s Christmas list? Popular model drones, which generally sell for anywhere between $50 and $300. The remote-controlled aircraft being used by everyone from realtors to farmers for a bird’s-eye-view.

"We're selling out of them," Adirondack Train and Hobby in Saratoga Springs, manager Jim Grotto said the drones have been incredibly popular this Christmas, told the Times Union.  Some have expressed fears that drones could be used for nefarious purpose – particularly the larger ones which come equipped with cameras – or that they could interfere with airplanes. The drones are not supposed to be flown above 400 feet — 39 stories high — or within 5 miles of an airport, and the Federal Aviation Administration announced this month that owners would have to register any drone weighing more than half a pound. Luckily, for new drone-owners, there is a website called Know Before You Fly dedicated to help keeping you off Santa’s naughty list.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that he will use his pardon power for people convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felony at 16 or 17 years old, and who have since lived crime-free for 10 or more years. Approximately 10,000 people will be impacted in a backlog of eligible individuals, and moving forward approximately 350 citizens will be eligible for pardons on an annual basis, according to the governor.

Gov. Cuomo also signed a measure imposing new requirements for IDAs, whereby companies seeking tax breaks from local industrial development agencies could face penalties if they fail to meet employment goals. The economic development agencies, which can offer local tax incentives to businesses, have faced criticism in the past for high price tags with limited returns and a lack of transparency, reports the Albany Business Review. Surprisingly, the safeguards weren’t in place before. State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office authored the bill.