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New York Governor Signs Casino Bill, Issue Goes To November Referendum

Measure Would Allow Four Las Vegas-Style Commercial Casinos

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, just recently signed a piece of legislation that will allow four Las Vegas-style commercial casinos to be built in his state. The plan now goes to voters, who will weigh in on the matter in November.

The legislation is called “The Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013,” and it sped through the legislature in less than two months.

Earlier this summer, Cuomo submitted a bill to the state legislature that would divide upstate New York into different non-Indian land regions and allow one resort casino to be developed in a few of them. Originally, Cuomo pushed for three casinos, but he eventually upped the ante to four. The new casinos will be protected from downstate competition for the first seven years of operation. The precise locations for the new casinos are still up for debate.

“For too many years, gaming revenue has left New York for our neighboring states,” Cuomo said, according to LegislativeGazette.com. “Today, we are putting New York in a position to have those dollars spent here in our communities, which will benefit our local economies and tourism industries, as well as support education and property tax relief.”

Both New Jersey and Massachusetts are in the midst of greatly expanding their respective gambling industries (the former with Internet betting and the latter with brick-and-mortar casinos). Delaware is about to venture into the real-money online gaming space, and New Hampshire is also working on a plan to expand gambling to keep pace with Massachusetts. Pennsylvania has quickly become the second-most lucrative casino state in the nation.

The three regions of New York where casinos could be built are the Hudson Valley/Catskill area, the Capital District/Saratoga area and the Central-Southern Tier. The decision on locations will come from state gaming regulators, who will also be in charge of overseeing the industry once it’s underway and bringing in taxes for the state.

There would be a 25-percent tax rate on the full-scale casinos. The state already has about 10 tribal casinos, operating independently, and the bill just signed into law would not allow new casinos to threaten the existing tribal businesses. New York also has a handful of racinos.

Full-scale Las Vegas-style casinos are much different than what the state itself currently has.

Keeping casinos out of New York City, at least for now, has not made some of the biggest casino developers in the world too happy or excited about the potential profits to be made. MGM Resorts International publicly came out against the plan before the legislation became law.

The company’s CEO Jim Murren told the Times Union that Gov. Cuomo’s plan to restrict resort-style casino construction to upstate was “tortured.” Murren argued that a casino in New York City would be better for creating economic activity and more jobs.

As part of the budget and casino discussions, the New York Senate said in a March resolution that it “supports authorizing and regulating Internet gaming for games of skill, including poker, to reflect recent changes in the classification of these games.”

However, nothing came to fruition from this statement, as online gaming was not included in the casino expansion legislation.

Last November, Maryland held a referendum on bringing more casinos to the state. Voters there supported the plan, and a new property in Baltimore is slated for next year.