Upstate New York Casinos Resorts World, Tioga Downs Reduce Number of Slots to Better Monetize Floors

Posted on: March 26, 2019, 08:37h. 

Last updated on: March 29, 2019, 09:00h.

Upstate New York casinos Resorts World Catskills and Tioga Downs have gained state approval to reduce their number of slot machines in an effort to better monetize their floors.

New York casinos Resorts World Catskills
Resort World Catskills is one of two upstate New York casinos decluttering its casino floor. (Image: Bruce Gilbert/Newsday)

The New York Gaming Commission signed off on the requests Monday to allow the two casinos to reduce their number of slot machines. Officials for Resorts World and Tioga Downs said the goal is to remove underperforming assets to “maximize the efficiency of asset utilization and patron opportunity.”

The Commission’s Division of Gaming reviewed the impact of removing certain slot machines and concluded that there was “an overabundance of slot assets exposed for play.”

As such, Resorts World Catskills will be permitted to remove 550 terminals and Tioga Downs 50. The casinos will respectively offer 1,600 and 892 slot machines after the removals.

State law requires casinos to incorporate a certain number of machines and table games depending on their size and licensing approval.

Casino Struggles

The four upstate New York casinos authorized in the 2013 gaming expansion have severely underperformed. All of the properties have failed to live up to premarket gross gaming revenue (GGR) forecasts.

Resorts World Catskills parent company Empire Resorts said the property delivered a $138.7 million loss in 2018. The $1 billion integrated resort opened in February 2018. In their first full years in operation, Del Lago fell short $100 million of expected GGR, Rivers was $80 million behind where it expected, and Tioga Downs $30 million.

Del Lago spokesman Steven Greenburg said last year the commercial casinos are at a competitive disadvantage compared to their tribal counterparts – specifically the Seneca Nation gaming floors.

Commercial venues are required to share 37-45 percent of their slot win with the state, and 10 percent on table game revenue. The Senecas, however, engaged in a more than 20-month standoff with the state on claims the authorization of the four commercial casinos voided its compact and requirement to share 25 percent of its slot money.

The standoff – the commercial venues claim – allowed the tribal venues to offer better incentives. Arbitrators ruled for the state in January.

Monetizing Casinos

Resorts World said in a statement to the Albany Bureau that the reduction in slots will “provide a much better experience with more room on the floor.” The casino measures nearly 100,000 square feet.

The Tioga Downs gaming area is much smaller at 32,000 square feet. Owner Jeff Gural – who also owns the Meadowlands racetrack in Northern New Jersey – says the elimination of the slot machines will free up needed space for the implementation of sports betting.

Sports betting is seen as one viable lifeline for the commercial venues. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) says no downstate or New York City casinos will be authorized through at least 2023.

Under the 2013 gaming expansion bill, the four upstate New York casinos could receive authorization to operate sports betting should a change come to the federal law. That change of course came last May with the US Supreme Court striking out the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Upstate sportsbooks are expected to get up and running in the coming months following a public input period. The 2013 law, however, doesn’t allow tribal casinos to participate.