Lobbyists for the gaming industry want New York City badly, and in an effort to convince state lawmakers to allow them to build full-scale commercial casinos in the five boroughs, the special interest reps are pitching the economic benefits such venues would provide.

New York City casino Sands MGM

Several casino operators are in a New York City state of mind. (Image: Michael Grimm/Wired)

Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, and the Genting Group – parent to the Resorts World brand – are three casino operators that have recently sent lobbyists to the Albany state capital.

The New York City gaming market is a tremendous opportunity to generate hundreds of millions of dollars of incremental tax revenue that could be used to support local schools and revitalize the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). Additionally, it would allow New York an opportunity to capture tax dollars that are currently flowing out of state,” Genting and MGM said in a joint statement.

The Albany Bureau news service reports that the companies have offered hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing fees for the state to lift its ban on new casinos before 2023, and the moratorium in New York City that bars commercial gaming venues.

Upstate Benefit

New York expanded its gaming laws in 2013 to allow the construction of four upstate commercial casinos. Unlike Genting’s Resorts World New York City in Jamaica, Queens, and MGM’s Empire City in Yonkers, which are only permitted to have slot machines and electronic table games, the upstate venues can have live dealers.

The state authorized the upstate casinos in an effort to grow tourism to regions in economic need.

“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 neighboring states with legalized gaming take revenue that should be going to our schools,” Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said at the time. However, pre-opening fiscal projections for Del Lago, Resorts World Catskills, Rivers, and Tioga Downs have failed to come anywhere close to reality.

Del Lago, Rivers, and Tioga Downs underperformed by $220 million in their first full year. The $1 billion Resorts World Catskills, which opened in February 2018, reported this week that the property delivered parent company Empire Resorts a nearly $140 million loss last year.

The casino lobbyists say should properties be welcomed in New York City, some of the tax money could be used to aid the upstate venues. However, Cuomo rejected bailouts for the properties last year.

“We did casino gaming to create facilities, generate economic development, create jobs. It has done that,” Cuomo declared. “You have a casino saying, ‘I’m not meeting my expectations. I should get help from the state.’ I’m not sympathetic to that.”

Sands’ Not-So-Secret Weapon

MGM Resorts recently completed its $850 million acquisition of Empire City. This week the property’s CEO Uri Clinton went public with the company’s hopes of being permitted to incorporate live dealer table games.

But Las Vegas Sands – the world’s richest casino operator in terms of revenue – says the state should hold a competitive bidding process if it wants to expand gaming operations downstate.

Sands has hired former New York Gov. David Paterson (D) to make its case.

“Open competition builds a pathway for local careers and vocational training programs and stable good paying jobs with quality, dependable benefits that build up working class families,” Paterson stated. “However, this is all at risk if the state takes the easy way out by stifling competition and providing giveaways to select operators.”