A coalition of upstate theaters said Tuesday they have assurances from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration that potential private casinos in New York will be required to partner with local arts organizations rather than compete with them.
Upstate Theaters for a Fair Game, a group representing a dozen upstate performing arts centers, had raised concerns over a proposed amendment to the state Constitution to allow for up to seven private casinos in New York, with the first four slated for upstate.
Private casinos in New York are contingent on whether voters approve the constitutional change on Nov. 5. In nearby Connecticut and Rhode Island, resort-style casinos have been able to offer more money for touring acts, cutting into the number of events offered at non-profit theaters each year, the group said.
On Tuesday, the state Gaming Commission issued a statement in response to the group’s concerns, saying any potential operators would be required to enter into a partnership with local theaters and arenas in order to bid on New York’s casinos.
“We will work with the coalition to address all of its concerns regarding language in the (casino Request for Proposals) that ensures that no casino operator can successfully bid for a New York casino license unless it has a signed partnership agreement with live entertainment venues in the local market in consultation with the Upstate Theater Coalition,” said Robert Williams, the acting executive director of the Gaming Commission. “We believe any new gaming resorts must and will provide a major boost for our existing and historic live entertainment venues.”
That news was welcomed by the coalition, which includes representatives from the State Theatre of Ithaca, the Bardovan 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston and the Clemens Center in Elmira. The group had been pushing for input on booking acts for the potential casinos, as well as limits on the size of entertainment venues at the gambling operations.
“We are both grateful and fully prepared to participate in all steps of the process for this to be successful,” said Phillip Morris (pictured), chair of the theater group and CEO of Proctors in Schenectady.