The state of New York is taking up the effort to legalize online poker once again in 2017, and the current bill that aims to do so, S3898, would place the ongoing regulation of the New York State Gaming Commission (NYGC). With an already prominent profile in the Empire State’s horse racing, lottery, video lottery, charitable gaming, Class III Indian gaming and brick-and-mortar casino industries, a more in-depth look at this governing body is warranted.
Mission and Inception
The Schenectady, New York-based NYGC was officially created via Chapter 60 as part of the Laws of 2012 as part of New York’s 2012/13 Enacted State Budget. It became an active state agency on February 1, 2013 and was the byproduct of the merger of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board and the New York Lottery. Within the state’s governmental hierarchy, the NYGC is part of New York State’s Executive Department. As part of its mission statement on its official website, the NYGC emphasizes that its overriding purpose is to “ensure that all lawful gaming and horse racing activity conducted in this State is of the highest integrity, credibility and quality.”
The NYGC’s formation occurred in and was largely prompted by what was a momentous year for gaming expansion in the state. Prior to 2013, only New York-based Indian tribes were allowed to operate casinos within the state’s borders. That paradigm was significantly altered when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a constitutional amendment on July 30th of that year, the Upstate New York Gaming and Economic Development Act, that allowed for the development of up to four, non-Indian commercial casinos upstate. The amendment was approved by voters on November 5, 2013.
Diverse Member Make-Up
The NYGC is helmed by a group of five commissioners, with John A. Crotty, Peter J. Moschetti Jr., John J. Poklemba, Barry Sample and Todd R. Snyder currently serving in those roles. Robert Williams, who has served as acting Executive Director since its inception, formerly headed up the New York’s Lottery Division. The NYGC commissioners serve terms of 4-5 years and the current group, with the exception of Sample, are all on their second terms. Sample is on a five-year term that does not expire until January 31, 2018. The commissioners collectively boast a diverse array of backgrounds in the areas of law, finance and municipal government.
The NYGC’s original chair, Mark Gearan, president of Hobart and William and Smith Colleges, stepped down from his post in August 2015 due to the increasing demands of his full-time posts as a college administrator. Upon his resignation, Gearan was lauded for his work in the regulatory body’s first 18 months, with Williams crediting him for overseeing “a great deal of progress” in gaming regulation within the state.
Myriad of Regulatory Duties
Among its duties, the NYGC imposes sanctions for violations of racing laws, rules and regulations and both thoroughbred and harness racing tracks and appoints the members of and oversees the Gaming Facility Location Board, which is responsible for evaluating all commercial gaming applications in the state, conducting the necessary background and suitability checks on applicants and awarding licenses.
The NYGC oversees an already-robust gaming industry in New York that would be poised to grow exponentially with the legalization of online poker. As per its annual report for 2015, traditional and video lottery combined sales and net win totaled $9.69 billion (generating $3.30 billion in contributions to the state’s education fund for the fiscal year 2015-16), horse racing produced just over $884 million and charitable gaming saw just under $250 million in wagers, with profits to charities exceeding $40 million.