New York Governor Allows Casinos to Reopen, Places Limit on Capacity

Posted on: September 3, 2020, 12:26h. 

Last updated on: September 3, 2020, 01:14h.

Casinos throughout New York have the go-ahead to reopen Sept. 9, with a cap on the number of people allowed inside.

Andrew Cuomo Casinos Reopening
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced he will allow casinos to reopen Sept. 9 with restrictions. Cuomo ordered casinos to close in mid-March. (Image: Buffalo News)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made the announcement Thursday, Sept. 3, in a conference call with reporters.

The governor’s directive limits the number of patrons inside a casino to 25 percent of capacity. Additional staff will be required to monitor foot traffic. The New York Gaming Commission and New York State Police have the authority to enforce compliance.

Casinos also will be required to install enhanced air filtration systems. Patrons and employees must wear masks and maintain social distancing. Table games will be allowed if approved physical barriers are in place, according to the governor’s directive.

Also Thursday, Cuomo said malls will be allowed to reopen Sept. 9 with 50 percent capacity and with social-distancing in place. He said indoor dining in New York City still is not permitted.

Budget Crunch

In mid-March, Cuomo directed the state’s casinos and other “nonessential” businesses to close as COVID-19 deaths surged statewide. He gradually permitted some businesses to reopen, including gyms and fitness centers. Until Thursday, Cuomo had not set a time line for allowing casinos to begin operating again.

The Empire State is home to four commercial casinos and eight video-only venues, such as racetracks. Combined, they employ about 10,000 people.

Michael Kane, president and executive director of the New York Gaming Association, told on Thursday that is it too early to tell whether all eight of the properties in the association will be ready to open on Sept. 9. He said there is a process involved in getting employees back on-site and trained, which might require more time for some venues. The association represents video-only properties. The four commercial casinos are not in the association.

Tribal casinos, which do not fall under state jurisdiction, already are open.

With commercial casinos and video-only sites closed for nearly six months, the state faces a $600 million shortfall in gaming tax revenue for the fiscal year that began April 1, according to Freeman Klopott, spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget.

This shortfall can be made up with money from the general fund, Klopott told However, the state faces an overall $14.5 billion shortfall and will need federal assistance, he said.

In the Empire State, about 80 percent of tax money from gaming goes to education. The other 20 percent is sent to municipalities for their use.

On Aug. 20, casino employees held a rally at the Capitol in Albany, hoping to encourage the governor to allow casinos to reopen. About 50 people attended the midday event, some carrying signs as they marched. Other rallies were planned at casinos across the state in late August.

Low Infection Rate

As the governor begins to allow some reopenings, he announced that the state has gone 26 straight days with a COVID-19 infection rate below 1 percent.

“Defeating COVID-19 requires a shared commitment among all New Yorkers to wear masks, socially distance, and wash hands, and I thank them for listening to state guidance and taking social action to get us to this point today,” the governor said.