In paving the way for four Las Vegas-style resort casinos upstate, Albany lawmakers last year established a seven-year moratorium on casinos in the city and surrounding counties. The city nonetheless looms large in the process, however, and the possibility remains that casinos could eventually open shop here. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed part two of his series, "Rolling the Dice."
New York's planned casinos are aimed at reviving the upstate economy. However, New York City—and its 54 million annual tourists—is exerting a kind of gravitational pull. While for now, casinos are confined to these three regions upstate, six out of 16 bids are clustered in Orange County, within driving distance of the city.
That's a fact developers are quick to advertise, but an unintended consequence has been to scare off investors in the more economically depressed Catskills, where Foxwoods abandoned its proposed casino at the old Grossinger’s Hotel. It was one of two Catskills bids that folded.
"It’s a serious disappointment. What can you say?” says Town of Liberty Supervisor Charlie Barbui.
New York City, of course, already has Resorts World at Aqueduct racetrack, where business is booming. Restricted to electronic games, the so-called racino still raked in almost $800 million last year.
“On a gross slot revenue basis, we’re the number one slot machine gross revenue facility in the country,” says Christian Goode of Genting Americas.
Owner Genting Americas is unfazed by upstate casinos; in fact, it wants in on the action, submitting two casino proposals of its own.
CFO Christian Goode says when it comes to gambling, the New York City market has room to grow.
“Compare it to other jurisdictions like Chicago, st. Louis, Detroit. The gaming revenue per person—per adult person—is much smaller here than it is in other jurisdictions,” Goode says.
While up to four casinos are going upstate, the constitutional amendment approved by voters last November actually authorized seven casinos statewide. As for the remaining three, many believe they’re destined for right here in New York City.
Once upstate casinos are awarded licenses, there will be a seven-year moratorium on downstate casinos, but critics note the state could eventually site a casino here without local approval.
“The city of New York, the City Council, the borough president, and local elected officials won’t have any say,” says State Senator Liz Krueger.
Still, casinos here would require further state legislation, and powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver opposes the idea. In the meantime, upstate casinos will bring the city one benefit: a projected 94 million dollars a year in new education aid.