Eight years ago, New York voters approved a referendum that would ultmately pave the way for the construction of four casinos all north of the New York City metropolitan area.
Now, gambling interests are eyeing the lucractive downstate market as the new $212 billion budget opened the door for a review of building a casino in the region.
All told, the budget could provide for one of the biggest expansions of gambling in New York overall as the state moves to legalize mobile sports betting as well — a move estimated to generate $500 million in tax revenue for the state.
But a new casino in or near New York City will be fraught with regulatory questions and lobbying. Major interests like the Las Vegas Sands have expressed a desire to win a license as have other gambling firms in the recent days.
The budget included language to "request" information to determine which casino operators would seek a license. The state Gaming Commission, which regulates most gambling activity in New York, is in charge of releasing a report within six months of receiving the information.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday insisted he did not want a "politicized" process for casino selection the metropolitan region.
"The law does not authorize any new casinos," he said. "I am opposed to any casino authorization plan that is subject to politics. We have a Gaming Commission that makes the decision on the merits. There's a lot of money involved in casinos. There's a lot of lobbyists, there's a lot of political contributions and I want to make sure that any decision that is made is made purely on the merits and I'll have nothing to do with a casino plan that can be politicized."
Casinos have been touted by officials, including the governor, as job creating engines. But casinos have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the same time, those who have studied the market in the Northeast are concerned it has been at risk for oversaturation of casinos on the East Coast.
There are currently four commercial casinos licensed to operate in Schenectady, the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Hudson Valley region, in addition to the tribal run casinos and racino facilities that operate video lottery terminals across the state.