New York Sen. Addabbo: Upstate Casinos Need Support as New Casinos Get Approved
Posted on: January 19, 2022, 11:38h.
Last updated on: January 19, 2022, 04:40h.
A key legislator has told Casino.org that the licensing process for the state’s last three commercial casinos cannot come at the expense of the existing venues. That’s as New York lawmakers look to pass legislation this year expediting the licensing process.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo’s comments in a Tuesday interview come after some anticipate the state’s move to award the remaining casino licenses may impact other gaming venues in the state. The expectation is that those licenses will go to downstate locations.
Addabbo, the Queens Democrat who serves as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering, has pushed hard to get the licenses issued ahead of schedule. That’s as New York continues its economic recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Much of the state’s hospitality industry has seen its recovery happen at a slower pace, and that’s especially true in the New York City area. However, while it’s important to create new jobs and generate revenue, Addabbo said lawmakers also need to have a conversation about protecting the upstate casinos.
What you don’t want is to ruin all the work that’s been done previously with the upstate casinos,” he said. “So, you don’t want those jobs being put in jeopardy. You don’t want any reduction in revenue to the state or reduction in educational funds.”
The casino licenses were included in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 2023 fiscal year budget proposal. By law, the state legislature must pass the budget by April 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Upstate Casinos Tax Relief Passed Last Year
Last year, New York lawmakers included in the budget a provision that allowed the four upstate casinos to petition for a reduction on slot machine revenues to no less than 30 percent.
According to revenue records from the New York State Gaming Commission, Resorts World Catskills saw its slot tax drop from 39 percent for the 2021 fiscal year to 30 percent this year. Rivers Casino and Resort Schenectady saw its slot tax drop from 45 percent to 30 percent.
Through the first nine months of the 2022 fiscal year, Resorts World Catskill reported revenues of $134.8 million. That’s up from the $120.1 million it reported for the same time frame in the pre-pandemic 2020 fiscal year.
Rivers reported revenues of $106.7 million for the first nine months of the 2022 fiscal year. That’s up from $84.3 million over the same period two years ago.
Slot taxes at Tioga Downs Casino and del Lago have stayed at 37 percent since they opened in December 2016 and January 2017, respectively.
New Casino Licenses Could Bring in Billions
In a statement Tuesday after Hochul’s budget announcement, Addabbo said he expected the new casinos to command $1.5 billion in licensing fees. That estimate was lower than he had previously forecast, as he had said the licenses could go for as much as $750 million each.
In talking with Casino.org after releasing his statement, the senator said he was going by the forecast analysts from Spectrum Gaming made about the casino licenses. However, he added that that was just a minimum figure the analysts provided.
He said that the licensing fee should be set as part of a bid process, and the way the Gaming Commission handled the mobile sports betting solicitation gives him confidence about that approach.
They did a phenomenal job, being slightly ahead of schedule, getting it open before the NFL playoff season even started,” Addabbo told Casino.org. “Even when they’re changing governors, they didn’t skip a beat. So, I think that the Gaming Commission and the Hochul administration have the means and the wherewithal to set up a great process for the downstate licensing.”
The senator has cited the licensing fees as a revenue source the state needs since it will not get the billions in federal funding it did last year through COVID-19 relief packages.
iGaming a “Missed Opportunity” for New York
The new brick-and-mortar casinos aren’t the only gaming products Addabbo believes the state should consider as a new revenue source.
Fresh off the heels of mobile sports betting launching in the state, he told Casino.org that the state needs to look at offering online casino gaming as well. He concedes it might be too heavy of a lift for this legislative session. But it needs to be discussed in Albany this year. If it can’t come to fruition this year, he added, that could set the stage for iGaming legalization next year.
“Let’s start the conversation and see where it goes,” Addabbo said. “But I think it’s a missed opportunity for our state. I think it’s something that we can do very safely given today’s technology. We could look at caps and everything else as we address the gaming addiction issue. So, for the naysayers out there, I think we can do very safely here in our state.”