State’s racetrack casinos have $2B economic impact

Troy Record

A study released this past week says the state’s nine racetrack casinos have a nearly $2 billion economic impact and account for more than 17,000 jobs.

Based on this success, casino operators who sponsored the study say their facilities are the only sites where full-scale Las Vegas-style gambling should be allowed.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for a constitutional amendment that would permit expanded casino games such as poker, roulette and craps – staffed by dealers – instead of video gaming alone. New York residents spend an estimated $3 billion per year at out-of-state casinos that have such games.

State lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow for expanding gaming. However, details haven’t been released and racetrack casino operators are concerned that large gaming companies might move into New York and set up shop at popular resort destinations other than the tracks. Places such as Lake George and the Catskills have been mentioned frequently.

Saratoga Casino & Raceway was the New York’s first racino to open in January 2004.

“Only the nine current racinos must be given the exclusive rights to have full casinos,” said Gary Greenberg, a minority owner at Vernon Downs Casino and Hotel in Central New York. “I urge the state Legislature to pass a bill that will take gaming to the next step without saturation and outside interests invading the state for selfish corporate purposes. I am not going to support any legislation that allows municipalities, OTB’s or any outsiders to run a casino in New York state.”

Full-scale gaming requires approval by two separately-elected state Legislatures and New York voters in a statewide public referendum. November 2013 is the earliest could be put on the ballot.

A recently-formed coalition of racing and agricultural entities says any new legislation should include language that guarantees ongoing financial support of these industries from casinos in New York. Such parties are concerned that free-standing casinos might not have to share their revenues with the racing industry, the same as existing racinos.

The nine racinos combined now have 5,431 employees, but indirectly help support more than 11,600 other jobs in other industries such as tourism and agriculture, the study says.

The study says some non-New York residents come to the state to visit one of its racinos. For example, Saratoga’s casino attracts people from western Massachusetts.

“In addition to what they spend at a casino, some of these incremental visitors also spend money off-site,” the study says. “An out-of-state resident who comes to Saratoga for a day of racing might decide to spend the evening at the casino and then stay overnight in a local hotel.”

“We estimate that off-site spending (statewide) by out-of-state visitors directly supported 590 full-time equivalent jobs in hotels, restaurants, retailing and local transportation, with earnings of almost $10.4 million,” the study says.

The report, “Racetrack Casinos in New York State: Current Economic Impact,” was done by Appleseed for the New York State Gaming Coalition comprised of the nine racino operators.