June 20, 2013 – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached an agreement with state lawmakers yesterday that will allow four casinos to open in upstate New York, pending voter approval of a referendum this fall.
The state hopes the casinos will help economically distressed areas in the Southern Tier – the part of the state west of the Catskill mountains on the northern border of Pennsylvania – by creating jobs and driving tourism to the area.
“This legislation is a major step forward in our efforts to both capitalize on this economic development and tourism potential, and end the trend of letting neighboring states with legalized gaming take revenue that should be going to our schools,” Cuomo said.
The four resort-style casinos would open in the Binghamton, Hudson Valley – Catskills, and Albany areas, according to a CNBC report.
Reports say the Catskills area, which has successful mountain resorts already, is likely to get two of the four casinos if voters approve the referendum this fall.
The referendum will ask voters to approve an amendment to the state’s constitution which would lift the ban on full-fledged casinos in parts of the state not reserved for Native Americans.
(Native American lands are considered locally sovereign, and are free to make their own laws regarding gambling, among other things, under federal laws).
The casino agreement would also allow two video slot machine centers to open on Long Island.
Those gaming centers will be managed by off-track betting agencies headquartered in Suffolk and Nassau counties, according to an ABC local report.
To help the upstate casinos establish a solid tourism base, the agreement has a provision that would prohibit competing casinos from opening in other parts of the state – like New York City – for at least seven years.
It also bans internet “sweepstakes cafes” that offer online gambling to customers – a type of gaming center that was recently outlawed in Ohio in an effort to limit competition to the Ohio casinos and the state’s lottery.
Cuomo’s estimates that once they are fully operational, the four casinos could return $1 billion to the state each year. The majority of that revenue would go to public education in the state.
The agreement also earmarks funding for gambling addiction efforts by placing a $500 fee on each table and slot game in the would-be casinos, but opponents say this is not enough.
Stephen Shafer, chairman of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York, told CNBC that problem gamblers often don’t seek help “until they have ruined their lives and the lives of people around them.”
“..the social costs to the people of New York that go with adding the casinos will be much bigger than any payments to the state and to any so-called funding of education,” Shafer said.