New York Governor Says No to Downstate Casino Expansion

  • Andrew Cuomo is not planning on allowing downstate racinos to obtain full casino licenses
  • The governor has made no inclusion for such a change in his recent budget proposal
  • As per a 2013 law, no new casino licenses in NY state can be handed out until 2023
  • MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, and Genting Group are pushing for a policy change
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
The racinos in downstate New York have recently been pushing for a full commercial casino license, but Governor Andrew Cuomo is still resisting. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Racinos to remain as they are

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said there will be no expansion of gambling operations at Empire City Casino and Resorts World New York City, the two racinos downstate.

The racinos can legally only have video lottery terminals in addition to electronic versions of table games. Both facilities have been looking for full casino licenses, saying they would help generate millions of dollars for the state government.

Empire City Casino and Resorts World New York City are much better located than the four upstate commercial casinos that are in somewhat remote areas. But although New York is struggling to deal with shortfalls in its budget, Governor Cuomo is still opposing casino expansion

Cuomo has reservations

In a recent fiscal budget proposal, Governor Cuomo made no allowance for new forms of tax revenue from gambling sectors. This includes not accounting for the potential legalization of online sports betting.

To date, only the four upstate commercial casinos can offer retail sportsbooks in the region, as well as a number of tribal facilities. 

not the time to come up with creative, although irresponsible, revenue sources”

Regarding the exclusion of new gambling tax revenue, Cuomo maintained his budget proposal did not contain any “gimmicks”. He went on to make some strong comments on the issues, saying, “This is not the time to come up with creative, although irresponsible, revenue sources to solve a problem which doesn’t really exist.”

The budget deficit in the state currently stands at around $6bn. 

Cuomo has maintained, “These are complicated issues, and I am skeptical about quick, knee-jerk reactions to doing something like that, especially if it’s conditioned on money.”

Expansion faces legislative resistance

As per the gaming law that got approval in 2013, no casino licenses will be issued before 2023. Such a measure was intended to give the four upstate casinos legalized through this bill a decade of exclusivity to establish themselves. 

However, these casinos’ performance has been underwhelming since legalization. The facilities can now offer sports betting, which has somewhat boosted their operations lately.

A strong push from major operators

New York City is a massive business hub and would result in significant revenues for gambling firms in the area if they can expand their operations. A number of major global casino companies are at the forefront of the push for gambling expansion in the state. 

One such advocate is MGM Resorts, the owner of the Empire City racino since 2019. The Genting Group, which owns the Resorts World New York City, is another casino giant to voice its support for expansion. It has said that, if its facility can get table games and slot machines, it would commit to giving a total of about $100m to the upstate casinos. Las Vegas Sands is another casino company that is after a full commercial casino license. It aims to have a gambling resort in one of the city’s five boroughs.

more than $500m in revenue for the state government in a single year

All three operators anticipate more than $500m in revenue for the state government in a single year once the licensing ban is lifted.

In a joint statement from Genting and MGM about the legislative expansion, the companies maintained, “It would allow New York an opportunity to capture tax dollars that are currently flowing out of state. MGM and Genting jointly support the authorization of downstate licensing that will activate this potential immediately.”

Gambling study under way

The Spectrum Gaming Group has undertaken a study assigned by the New York Gaming Commission in autumn 2019. The research looks into the future potential of gambling in the state.

The first draft will detail the potential of online sports betting legalization among other aspects. This is not due until April, when the state budget should already be finalized.