A bill legalising seven casinos in the state of New York has been approved by both Houses as well as legislators and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo but the final and most critical dice will be rolled by voters in an Autumn referendum .
It would see four casinos introduced upstate and three, allowed in seven years’ time, in the New York City region. In The first wave will see two casinos opened in the Catskills and one each in the Capital Region and Southern Tier. The state would then welcome applications for casinos in the New York City region in a second wave of casino expansion.
Governor Cuomo had originally limited the proposal to just three casinos but Senate Republicans asked for more immediate growth, particularly in the Catskills where the economy is suffering. The new bill would also allow 1,000 VLTs at off-track betting corporations in Suffolk and Nassau counties.
Gaming tax would be set at 39 per cent for slot machines and 10 per cent for table games.
The bill includes a provision allowing up to 5,000 VLTs in New York City’s outer boroughs and as many as three or four places upstate. Voters will be able to sway the final verdict in November.
Governor Cuomo said: “This legislation is a major step forward in our efforts to both capitalize on this economic development and tourism potential and end the trend of letting neighbouring states with legalised gaming take revenue that should be going to our schools.”
The Governor’s spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa added: “If the casino referendum fails, we will propose offering more high-end VLTs to combat the loss of revenue to neighbouring states and secure new funding for our schools.”
If the bill is approved, the new casinos will be protected from downstate competition for the first five years of operation.
Senator John Bonacic added: “I am hopeful the governor can consider authorising five casinos upstate now. I fear if he does not, it will leave it too open-ended, allowing casino naysayers and those who play to NIMBYism more fodder to oppose to the referendum.”
New York already has five upstate Indian casinos and nine racinos, as well as a lottery and horse betting. If approved the amendment would make New York the most populous state in North America to have full-scale casinos.
Governor Cuomo’s casino proposal will face stiff opposition from The New York Gaming Association who claims it doesn’t provide a fair chance for racetrack operators to apply for a casino licence.