If you heard a loud sound, like a giant bubble bursting, early Monday afternoon, it was probably that of the New York Gaming Association, whose hopes of exclusive control of expanded gaming in the state virtually went up in flames with these five words spoken by Governor Cuomo: "I 100 percent oppose that." The governor, whose impressive power was very much in display on a day when Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly quickly fell into line on his proposal to stem the obscene volume of NYC marijuana arrests under their watch, was referring to the idea being pushed by NYGA that new casinos should be limited to current racino sites. "You guys got that point?" he asked, almost mockingly, for emphasis before launching into his slapdown.
“I 100 percent oppose that. One hundred percent. I believe it should be an open competition where we bring in the best companies and I believe we should get the best deal for the taxpayer that we can get....I don’t believe the racinos have any claim for primacy.I can't imagine that the racinos have a prayer if this governor is so opposed. And they surely must be lamenting the $2 million they gave to the Committee to Save New York, a business group with ties to Cuomo which actively campaigned for his economic program; that, according to today's NY Times front page investigatory story (Joe Drape's inevitable pre-Belmont bombshell will have to wait for another day I guess...I'd say Thursday). (And, by the way, if the Times was trying to make the point that the governor was under the influence of that money, this statement pretty much blunted that, and just prior to its publication day too. Wonder if the governor's men had advance word of the story?)
It will be interesting to read NYGA's reaction. Thus far, all we've gotten from them has been a steady flow of smug, self-congratulatory canned propaganda about the revenue and jobs they've created and how socially responsible they are, but this changes the game and fast. If and when it becomes apparent that the racinos will be excluded from the casino sweepstakes, you can expect that NYGA will pivot and become a vociferous opponent of the casino referendum. With their very existence potentially on the line with the prospect of competing full-scale casinos, and with the Citizens Union decision permitting unlimited donations to SuperPACs also applicable to issue campaigns, a company with the resources of Genting could literally try to buy the referendum's defeat. But hey, that's the way this Supreme Court says it should be, right?
Also during the press conference, I was reading tweets reporting that Cuomo referred to the current racino arrangement as a "scandal." Of course, Twitter is highly limited as far as substantive reporting (though quite proficient in reporting out-of-context unsubstantive tidbits over and over and over again), so I was curious to hear exactly what the governor was referring to. If you listen to the entire statement, as I did here, starting at around the 9:00 mark, it's quite clear what his point was.
"I do not want to be in a situation where the assumption is that these tracks have the casinos and we have to figure out how to get money from them. The current racino situation in this state is a scandal, in my opinion. You try to find the rhyme or reason on racinos, and why taxpayers get what they get, it defies logic."To me, this fits right into the context of his remarks a few months ago when he asked: "What is it worth to this state to have this industry? And how much do we subsidize them? And do we want to?" Seems clear that the governor is irritated with the current arrangement. Fortunately for the tracks, their revenue cuts are written into the law of the state and cannot be changed merely by executive edict. It would instead take an act of a compliant legislature under the sway of a governor who seems to get most of want he wants, and mostly all of what he really wants.
Cuomo also spoke about the collapse of talks with Genting over a convention center at Aqueduct, which you can hear at the beginning of the abovelinkedto video. Basically, Genting planned to subsidize the convention center with racino money, but wanted a guarantee that that money flow would not be threatened by a casino competitor in NYC. Cuomo would have none of that. Instead, he'll just find some other company who is willing to foot the entire bill for a money-losing convention center as long as they can operate a money-making casino. Which I imagine shouldn't be too hard to find.