Reports over the weekend that Governor Cuomo is attempting to add a cruel twist to his casino legislation which needs to be agreed on by the legislature before it adjourns on Thursday in order to trigger a referendum this fall.
The new provisions state that if a casino expansion referendum fails with voters this fall, a new VLT-only casino may be located in New York City, except Manhattan; new VLT facilities could also be located upstate near existing track-based facilities.Oh boy. Can't think of much to say other than: Motherfucker!
The plan poses a direct threat to Genting New York, operator of the successful Aqueduct Racetrack. Genting has been seen in Albany as having some of the deepest financial pockets if it wanted to oppose a casino expansion referendum vote.
But the governor's newest plan appears aimed at Genting and some of the other VLT racino operators with a threat that any opposition of his casino plan that leads to the referendum's defeat will still result in damaging competition for the limited flow of gambling dollars. [Bloodhorse]
Adding further fire, Cuomo is proposing any new VLT facilities have to pay a 40% tax rate, more than 20% below what racinos now pay the state. Moreover, the new facilities would be licensed for periods of five years, with renewal options. Any existing VLT facility–there are nine racetrack casinos scattered around the state–would have to have its license renewed under a set of strict new conditions by June 30, 2014.With respect to this governor's brand of hardball, maybe now I can better appreciate how the opposite side of my political spectrum feels. Talk about arrogance! Coming just a few days after the NYGA announced their opposition to the legislation, Cuomo is attempting not only to effectively take them, and any other potential racing industry opposition, completely out of the referendum ballgame, but to blunt the impact of any referendum vote, and turn it almost into a matter of semantics. We'd get expanded gaming at facilities to be sited by commissions controlled by the governor either way. Fact is that while VLT facilities may not have traditional casino table games, they are able to electronically simulate most of anything. The restrictions to electronic games sure haven't dulled the results at Resorts World, that's for sure.
Cuomo added wording to his new draft bill that specifically states any of the new VLT facilities the New York Gaming Commission would select would not have to be affiliated in any way with existing Thoroughbred or Standardbred racing operations.
And this would mean that the racing industry is a loser, no matter what happens in a vote.
So, it would seem to me that it's not overly dramatic to say that the prospects of racing in New York State now rests on negotiations over the language in the bill that will take place over the next few days entirely behind closed doors, amongst our legislative leaders who have no real interest in much of anything other than their own political fortunes. I would think there's hope that Cuomo's proposal will not survive. Legislators, particularly the Senate Republicans who control the Senate in cohoots with the IDC, will surely try to resist the governor's latest attempt at a power grab, already unhappy as many are with Cuomo's original concept of three upstate casinos only (they have now gained a 4th casino as opposed to the governor's three, but still restricted from NYC). But it puts us all in a precarious and helpless position wishing that so.
- An article in the NY Times over the weekend discusses the effects of the Aqueduct racino on the local community. And it's a far cry from the rosy predictions we heard from Genting and giddy politicians back when the plans were first announced.
Though it seemed as if it should be a busy place, full of pedestrian traffic and businesses servicing varied cultural interests, it has the bloodless feel of a Sun Belt village lost to misbegotten visions.
As Alberto Livecchi, a longtime resident of South Ozone Park and the owner of a store selling musical equipment, explained, the construction of the casino — a racino, in gambling parlance — came with promises that have not materialized. Having been sold as a boon to local commerce, it has instead affected businesses negatively, Mr. Livecchi argued. “People are just funneled into the casino and don’t leave,” he remarked. Whatever street life there was has been destroyed, residents said; pawnshops are ubiquitous. “Casinos are only interested in enriching themselves,” Mr. Modica said.
Ample data on how gambling affects local businesses suggests that these men are not hallucinating. In the 1990s, researchers at Iowa State University examined the consequences of riverboat gambling for business owners in Clinton, Iowa, and found that while 12 percent reported an increase in business, 29 percent reported a decrease, and 60 percent reported no change at all. And racetrack casinos, as Clyde Barrow, a political economist who studies gambling, explained, draw most customers not from the far and wide but from a 30-minute radius. Rather than drawing new money to the area, it seems, they divert local dollars to gambling. [NY Times]