The casino vote Tuesday created some odd bedfellows: the Southern Tier, North Country and most of New York City supported the gaming expansion.
Yet western New York voted in solidarity against it—from Buffalo through Rochester—as did most of the Albany area.
The Albany area is in line for casino under the proposal, which passed statewide with 57 percent of the vote.
James Featherstonhaugh, a prominent Albany lobbyist and part owner of Saratoga Raceway, told the Times Union that he thinks the area’s response was muted because it expects it will get one and hasn’t yet warmed up to the idea. The paper has a nice map of where they vote passed and failed.
But that wasn’t the case in other parts of the state: the Southern Tier and Catskills—also in line for casinos—overwhelmingly backed the measure.
So why would western New York be so widely opposed to the expansion?
The region won’t see a privately owned casino there. It’s in the gambling exclusivity area of the Seneca Nation of Indians.
Maybe it is also gambling fatigue. The region has the most gambling options in the state: three Seneca-owned casinos and three racetracks with video-lottery terminals.
Or could it be just the opposite? Voters were opposed to the deal between the Senecas and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that will not allow any new casinos in the region. Onondaga County voted against the measure too, and that area can’t have any casinos because it’s in the exclusive area of the Oneidas, who run the Turning Stone Casino.
The rural areas of western New York are largely conservative. But the measure was defeated in Erie and Monroe counties—which have wide Democratic majorities.
RBC Capital Market gaming analyst John Kempf said he was surprised the vote failed in western New York, which has already become acclimated to casinos. Usually, he said, the opposition comes from areas that have yet to develop casinos.
“I’m surprised, having the casinos there, seeing what’s happened there, them having voted against it,” Kempf said.