There is a moratorium on opening up downstate casinos until 2023.

A 2013 constitutional amendment authorized seven gambling casinos in New York state. The four upstate casinos were licensed years before the three downstate casinos. The thinking was that upstate casinos needed time to become established without the pressure of competition from downstate gaming palaces. 

But that was before the pandemic and before the state faced a $15 billion budget gap.  

Casino operators like Las Vegas Sands are betting that there’s an appetite to launch the three downstate casinos a few years ahead of schedule in order to help close the deficit. 

Former Governor David Paterson, the vice president of Las Vegas Sands, discussed the idea on Capital Tonight.

“The legislature has a unique opportunity at a difficult time. I do not envy this legislature or this governor,” Paterson told Capital Tonight. “They have a $15 billion deficit. We had a $21 billion deficit in 2009 which was higher, but the problem is that where ever you go to try to close this budget, you’re going to be adding to the problems New Yorkers have been experiencing during the pandemic for over a year.”

According to Paterson, opening up the three downstate licenses permitted by the constitutional amendment would yield $1.5 billion in revenues to the state and an annual tax base of $900 million once the pandemic comes to an end. 

“Plus, it will create 200,000 new jobs and 70,000 local union jobs, so I think would do a lot to bring us out of the pandemic,” he said.

Rush Street Gaming which operates the Rivers Casino in Schenectady sent a statement in support of ending the downstate moratorium a few years early:

“We support the expansion of bricks and mortar casinos in New York State – recognizing the high value that casino industry jobs provide to the state’s economic recovery,” said Rush Street Gaming CEO Greg Carlin.

An email to Resorts World in the Catskills, which is much closer to New York City, was not returned.

When asked if he missed being governor of New York, David Paterson replied that he loved being governor, but doesn’t miss it.

“You know, it’s a very difficult job and the current governor has been there for a decade doing a good job,” he said.

Referencing recent accusations that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed a former staffer, Paterson said, “I was never held responsible for any of the things that I was accused of, and I’m certainly not going to hold anyone else responsible until there is a fair process to determine it.”