After voters’ approval Tuesday night, New York will be betting up casinos to revive the struggling upstate economy.
The proposition, which overwhelming passed with 57 percent of the vote, will mean New York will add up to seven casinos in a state that already has nine racetracks with video-lottery terminals and five Native American-casinos.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state has room for more casinos and the new resorts will drive tourism to hard-hit areas of upstate and create jobs. The first four casinos will be built in upstate: the Catskills, Southern Tier and Albany area. They will have exclusivity for seven years
“This vote will keep hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year in neighboring states right here in New York, while increasing revenue for local schools, lowering property tax taxes, and bringing proper regulation to the industry,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Casino operators already indicated that they will seek the licenses from the state Gaming Commission, which will soon appoint a siting committee to start reviewing bids. The law takes effect Jan. 1, and then the commission would have 90 days to put out requests for proposals.
There are at least three proposals for casinos in the Catskills. Tioga Downs and Saratoga Raceway, which are racinos, expect to bid to be full-scaled casinos.
“We look forward to seeking a license to bring the same type of full service destination resort casino to the Catskills that we’ve created in Connecticut,” said Scott Butera, president of Foxwoods Resort and Casino.
It’s unclear when construction could start on the casinos. Tioga Downs, Saratoga and Monticello Raceway in the Catskills said they could get underway soon because they already have existing facilities.
The proposition was backed by the tracks, unions and business groups.
“The passing of the casino ballot referendum is great news for New York State, specifically upstate,” said Aaron Hilger, president of the Builders Exchange of Rochester “Four proposed locations in upstate will have the potential to create more than 10,000 good-paying construction jobs.”
After the first seven years, the attention for casinos will turn to the New York City area. Yonkers Raceway and Aqueduct in Queens run the two largest racinos in the world, and they want to ultimately bid to be full-scaled casinos.
Yet questions remain on whether the Northeast is already saturated wih gaming options: It has 55 casinos. Atlantic City, in particular, has suffered from a steep decline in revenue in recent years as gambling proliferated through Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.
A report Sept. 19 by Moody’s Investment Services warned states to not rely heavily on gambling growth. It pointed out how casino revenue in Atlantic City has dropped 44 percent since 2006.
Upstate theaters have raised concern that they could lose acts to the new casinos, but said they have assurances from the state that they would at least be compensated for the loss of shows.
“We respect the public’s vote on the New York Casino Gambling Amendment and remain committed to working with the New York State Gaming Commission to establish protections needed to help keep our landmark institutes open and downtowns vibrant,” said the group, Upstate Theaters for a Fair Game.