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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

NYGA Climbs on Board

The legislation that will trigger a November referendum on the question of full-blown casinos in New York State was passed by the legislature early Saturday morning.  The New York Gaming Association (NYGA) was against it before they were for it.  When we last left our racino friends, they had come out against the measure, and were taking on the chin by a relentless Governor Cuomo, who threatened to open VLT parlors on Genting and Yonkers' doorsteps should the referendum fail.  

But the racinos found support in the legislature, where lawmakers of both parties spoke of all the revenue the facilities have contributed to education (a nod to the NYGA's publicists and their endless stream of triumphant press releases), and expressed concern that competition from casinos would harm them.  So the governor, as was the case in other matters as well, did not get everything he wanted.  But I can't imagine NYGA did either.  Yes, the casinos will have to pay higher tax rates when located near a racino, and no VLT parlors will be sited in NYC should the referendum fail.  But there will be VLT's at Nassau and Suffolk Downs OTB, restrictions on the abilities of the Western New York racinos to market themselves (a result of the deal with the Senecas), up to four additional VLT parlors, including one on Long Island, should the referendum fail, and there's no guarantee of its members getting casinos.

Still, they came out enthusiastically in favor of the bill

“The inclusion of competitive tax parity, a plan that keeps the three Western New York racetrack casinos as vital partners to state and localities, and the assurance that our two successful downstate partners can continue providing good paying jobs and generating significant funding for schools are significant improvements from earlier drafts of this bill and critical to our support,’’ Feathertonhaugh said. [Dailynewsonline]
OK....but still, wouldn't 'no casinos' still be a far better outcome for the NYGA, especially given the governor's outward hostility towards them?   Makes one think that there were some back room deals between two sides with a good deal of wariness of each other - NYGA of the governor and his threats to place VLT parlors wherever he pleased; the governor of NYGA's ability to spend enough to turn an election that is thought to be extremely close, and almost surely to be decided by voters in NYC.

So, despite Cuomo's professed belief that the racinos are unregulated scandals who never should have gotten VLT's in the first place, I'll be quite surprised if NYGA President James Feathertonhaugh doesn't get a casino for his expanded Saratoga Harness; and if Empire Resorts, in which Genting has an interest, doesn't get the nod for its long-discussed casino at the old Concord site in the Catskills. And, seven years before a casino in Yonkers and Aqueduct?  We'll see, things change.

 - Newsday noted on Monday that a clause to prohibit the acceptance of campaign contributions from casino companies was "quietly deleted" from the bill.  What a surprise. 
  In the past two years alone the gambling industry spent more than $2 million on campaign contributions in Albany and another $14 million on lobbying, Common Cause reported.

The campaign contributions included $242,000 to Cuomo; $404,000 to the state Republican Campaign Committee; $372,000 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee; $76,000 to Senate Racing and Wagering Committee Chairman John Bonacic, a Republican representing the Catskills where one or two casinos are likely be sited; and $59,000 to Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee Chairman Gary Pretlow, a Democrat from Yonkers where a harness track with a large video slot machine center is located.