Soon Live From New York: Three New Downstate Casinos

Licensing of new casinos, but not expanded sports betting, are part of budget plan
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New York politicians have fast-tracked the arrival of three new casinos in the New York City area.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced agreement Thursday on the state’s new $220 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which is to include provisions for three new downstate casino licenses. In the coming year, New York will open a competitive bidding process for the licenses, which The New York Times reported will cost operators $500 million each.

A six-member board of political appointees, which will include Hochul and New York Mayor Eric Adams, will determine the location of the new casinos somewhere in one of the five New York City boroughs, the lower Hudson Valley, or Long Island. Two racinos — Resorts World Queens at Aqueduct Racetrack and Empire City Casino in Yonkers — have long been viewed as serious contenders for two of the licenses.

Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow told NY Online Gambling last month that the two racino sites have a “leg up,” since they could quickly convert from video gaming to table games such as poker and blackjack.

“To me, it’d be a no-brainer, but if the governor chooses to go after bids for three licenses, then the chips fall where the chips fall,” Pretlow said. “If she wants to accelerate existing entities, it would be quicker, because both entities can be up and running as full casinos within, I would say, two weeks.”

It remains to be seen whether Manhattan, with its dense population and massive tourism industry, could be the site of another casino. Some Manhattan officials have signaled their opposition to a casino in the borough, while casino operators have lobbied aggressively to gain access to the massive, untapped market.

The original plan was to wait until the following budget before authorizing bidding for the new licenses, but Hochul urged lawmakers to accelerate the timeline.

Bills stadium funding included

The budget also contains public funding to help the Buffalo Bills erect a new stadium in Orchard Park. Last week, the Bills, the state, and Erie County announced a three-way agreement to fund a $1.4 billion stadium, with Hochul agreeing that the state would kick in $600 million toward construction while the county would contribute $250 million.

The combined $850 million in public funding represents the largest public subsidy for an NFL stadium to date. Most of the state’s share of that will come from $565 million in payments recently made by the Seneca Nation as part of a slot machine revenue-sharing deal. Seneca leaders have criticized Hochul’s planned use of the funds and have started a publicity campaign in New York to express their unhappiness.

Mobile gambling expansion doesn’t make budget

A month ago, Pretlow introduced a bill to expand the number of authorized mobile sportsbooks in the state from nine to 14 by next January, but the bill — and its companion in the Senate introduced by Sen. Joe Addabbo — saw no action as lawmakers couldn’t reach agreement in time for the new budget.

Opposition has centered on a provision of the bill that would lower the tax rate from its current level of 51%, depending on how many new sportsbook licenses would be issued. For example, with 16 operators, the tax rate would become 25%. Some legislators wondered why the state would tamper with mobile sports gambling now, given the more than $150 million in new tax revenue it has brought in since launching in January.

Through March 27, New York mobile-sports betting operators took $4.7 billion in bets and made $314.6 million in gross gaming revenue, 51% of which goes to the state.

Photo: Kelly Marsh/USA TODAY

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