Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway is having none of the talk from Genting that a casino in Tuxedo won't hurt them.
"The revenue from this single property is nearly $300 million a year just for education and we employ nearly 1,400 residents, most of whom are from Westchester, so it puts at risk not only the revenues that are generated by one of the most successful casinos in the state but also would ultimately mean layoffs as well," Duffy told the Journal News. [Politics on the Hudson]
Yonkers, of course, is quick to play the jobs card here. As we mentioned in the prior post, Genting CFO Christian Goode is saying that a Sterling Forest casino would not hurt Yonkers because gamblers there (and at Resorts World) are largely those with just $60-$80 to spend, and they won't cut into that budget by traveling. Before we go on, that brings up a couple of points: That makes perfect sense given my visual observations of customers at Aqueduct; that as opposed to those photos of affluent-looking young folks that you see on racino websites. And, at the risk of sounding presumptuous, it seems unfortunate that those with a limited amount of disposable income choose to dispose of it by sitting in front of a zombie-inducing machine that is eventually going to take most or all of it. (And even more distressing that this is now an accepted way of balancing state budgets and subsidizing horse racing.)
Yonkers will tell you that they've lost 15% of their business since Resorts World opened at the Big A. Net win figures I've seen are more like 11%.....but let's go with their figure. That is business lost to a racino located 24 miles away....and one which has aggressively provided free busing from areas in and around the city. (Their big ugly red buses have become quite ubiquitous around town.) So, how much more business would they lose to a full-blown casino located some 40 miles away? And one which has made it clear that they are more interested in big-money baccarat players from around the globe than small-time slots players? And where blackjack tables will have $25-$50 minimums? (In a recent interview, Yonkers GM Bob Galterio broke down their customer base as such: 15% NJ, 7% CT, 30% Westchester, 20% Bronx, the rest from the other boroughs and Long Island.)
So how much business would they really lose to Sterling Forest? Or, to a casino in Woodbury or thereabouts? I'm not going to guess. What I think we can surmise however is that, eventually, as these things proliferate here in NY and in NJ and in Massachusetts (perhaps), each will, for the most part, serve a local customer base. Beyond that, whether any of them can really draw customers from around the region, based on amenities such as golf or water parks or spectacular views, remains to be seen. (For this purpose, let's exclude Genting's grander scheme of flying in customers from Beijing.) With all the talk about the proposals being considered, this whole idea of a "casino resort" in rural areas of NYS attracting families is a totally unproven business model. We do know that the business model of resorts without the casinos in the Catskills was a failure. Whether Mom and Dad will really bring the kids so they can slip off and play casino games surely remains to be seen. I found it quite surprising that only once did any of the board members question the concept during the oral presentations....and that question was posed to Howe Caverns, which actually does have a track record of attracting tourists from beyond their immediate area.
- Noting that his location board heard from 415 citizens during the three days of hearings, and received around 3,000 written comments, chairperson Kevin Laws says that this is "true democracy in action, hearing directly from hundreds of individuals who feel very strongly about the future of their communities." Of course, true democracy requires the participation of both sides. It's one thing for the people to speak. Those making the decisons have to also truly listen. We'll reserve judgment for now.