New York Budget Passes with Casino Provisions Included
The New York State budget has finally been passed by lawmakers, set at $212 billion for the fiscal year, including some provisions for casinos in the state.
After a period of negotiations and discussions, lawmakers in New York were able to pass the fiscal budget. The total for the budget came in at $212 billion and it includes provisions connected to casinos in the upstate and downstate areas.
There are several mentions of casinos in the upcoming fiscal budget. First, the budget calls for the Gaming Commission to issue a request for information. This is connected to the three downstate casino resort licenses that have yet to be awarded. Next, the budget allows the four upstate commercial casinos to request a gaming taxes reduction.
The request for information portion will help to determine what entities can show interest in operating a casino downstate. This will be the first step in the process of issuing the licenses. Several lawmakers, including Senator Joseph Addabbo, wanted to see more progress towards the downstate casinos for New York.
The request process is a step closer, but not as far as the senator and other lawmakers were hoping the process would go. The Senate had a proposed budget that called for starting the bidding process on licensing this year. The goal was to bring as much as $1.5 billion to the state via revenues from licensing fees.
The local economy would be stimulated through construction and hospitality jobs for New York City. Addabbo stated that the work will start after the budget ends. If the process of the RFI can be expedited, then the senator will continue to work to create new revenues during this fiscal year.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo was steadfast in his decision that the downstate licenses for casinos would not start until the original set date of 2023. The licensing process created in 2013 had this date set so that the upstate casinos could become established first.
In his executive budget, Cuomo did not include the RFI. The governor is not open to releasing the licenses earlier, despite the fact that New York City lost over 250,000 hospitality jobs in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Last week, Cuomo spoke with reporters, stating that he did not want to politicize the process of authorizing the downstate casinos. The governor pointed out that the gaming commission uses merits to make decisions and there is a lot of money involved in casinos. There are lobbyists and political contributions.
The governor wants to ensure that any decision made is one made on merits and he will have nothing to do with a casino plan that can be politicized.
The Senate proposed that slight preference be given to the Empire City Casino owned by MGM Resorts International and Resorts World New York City. A spokesperson for Empire City spoke on the matter, stating that the company is disappointed that an agreement could not be reached regarding downstate licensing. If the option could start now, it would create thousands of union jobs with good pay.
According to the spokesperson, Empire City would be able to offer 10,000 indirect and induced jobs with a full casino. The casino would bring 2,500 employees and the payroll would be more than $75 million annually.
For now, the process continues, but not at the rate of speed that operators as well as some lawmakers would like. Perhaps over the coming weeks or months something will change that speeds up the process so that downstate casinos can get started sooner rather than later. We will continue to provide any updates as they are made available.