The budget stalemate goes on, headed towards what promises to be a theatrical conclusion on Monday, when, if no deal is reached beforehand, the legislature will vote on what would be (with sincere apologies to Casey Seiler of the Albany Times Union's Capitol Confidential blog), the Mother of All Extenders (MAE). It would contain, in an emergency appropriations bill to keep the government running, any remaining cuts or taxes/fees which are needed to close the $9.2 billion budget. As one might have expected, attention has been turned to raising revenue as opposing to further budget cuts; and though the soda tax was vehemently opposed by both parties, apparently the idea of a increase in the sales tax on clothing is acceptable. Don't ask me.
I'm told by a person with knowledge of the situation that there are three gambling-related revenue-raising proposals currently being considered:
- Make a "free play" promotion at racinos, in which nontaxable betting vouchers are given out in the hope of hooking and reeling customers in for future profit, permanently legal in all of the state's racinos. Apparently, the tactic works quite well; the program has proven successful at Monticello and Tioga Downs during a 12-month pilot program. And, according to a position paper advocating for the change that I've seen, a promotion at Finger Lakes in March resulted in a churn rate of 4.7 times the investment in free bets. Seems rather perverse in a way, doesn't it? Based on an assumption of a 3x churn rate, the measure is expected to raise $103 million.
(That might be a good context in which to present the idea of a lower takeout on certain exotic and multi-race wagers. I know, it's not gonna happen, but I'm just saying....it's the same concept.)
- Legalize electronic table games at racinos - $30 million
- Eliminate the restrictions on when, and where, Quick Draw lottery games may be conducted. It was projected in the governor's budget plan that the state could raise some $45 million from people playing Quick Draw wherever [they're] having fun (according to the Lottery site) between the added hours of midnight and 5:30 AM. Sounds like a ball. Overall, the measure is expected to net the state $70 million.
In total, that's $203 million, roughly 2/3rds (conservatively) of what the state could have been getting from a racino at Aqueduct every year.
- I'll leave it to the legal experts to determine what the Supreme Court's decision to restrict the use of "honest services" laws to prosecute white collar crimes means to former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. The Court, which in two fell swoops this year has made life easier for corrupt politicians, ruled that prosecutors could use the law only in cases of bribery and kickback schemes. William Dreyer, Bruno's attorney, told the Daily News' Glenn Blain:
"We’re still evaluating the decision but obviously the decision speaks for itself and tends to limit the honest services statue to bribery and kickbacks…..The allegations against the senator in the indictment concerned conflicts of interest." [Daily Politics]To me, that's like saying that murder laws are limited to killing and my client is only accused of strangulation. You can call it whatever you want; Bruno made lots of money in questionable arrangements with people with business before the state. While I'd previously had no particular hankering to see an 80-year old man sentenced to a inordinately lengthy prison term, I certainly don't believe he should walk scot free.