Lobbyists for major casino operators Genting and MGM are making a push at the Capitol to gain a casino license for the New York City area, four years ahead of the scheduled timeline. That timeline was set up to boost the upstate economy.
“I think the casinos, especially Genting downstate, have done a lot to earn the opportunity for there to be a discussion,” said Senator Leroy Comrie.
MGM and Genting currently operate casinos at Yonkers and at Aqueduct in Queens. But they want to convert those facilities to allow table-top gaming like black jack and poker. And they want to do it earlier than 2023, which is when the four upstate casinos exclusive rights in the state run out.
“We made a promise to the four upstate casinos that we wouldn't do any additional licensing for at least seven years,” said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow. “That time has not lapsed yet. So we'll see where that goes.
The legalization of casino gambling outside of those run by Native American tribes was sold as a boost for the upstate economy. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara has one in his Schenectady district.
“I want to make sure what the effects are,” said Santabarbara. “When we authorized the casinos in upstate New York, it was to revitilize the upstate cities, to change the tourism landscape. It's working for the most part. But we want to make sure that any steps we take now, don't take away from that.”
Some casino analysts have raised concerns about a gambling glut in the northeast market. Senator Leroy Comrie, however, says New York City casinos can still work alongside upstate gambling halls.
“I don't think that will be a major concern,” said Comrie. “I think we have to make sure all the casinos in this state find the best way to thrive and stay competitive.”
Supporters of downstate casinos would have to convince the Cuomo administration, however. Governor Cuomo's top budget aide says the move would require the state to pay millions of dollars in fees to upstate casinos if gaming in the New York City area moved forward.
“Right now we are not proposing expanding gaming in New York City and the fiscal reality is any revenues from that would be far in the outyears, anyway,” said Mujica.
By law, the state can only give out three licenses in the New York City area once that upstate exclusivity provision ends.