As competition looms, NY’s racinos post strong year

The Journal News –

The state’s nine racetracks with video-lottery terminals all, except one, had a strong 2015 as they face competition soon from three upstate casinos.

The revenue from the video-lottery parlors was up 2.8 percent in 2015 compared to 2014, records from the state Gaming Commission showed.

That’s a change of fortune: In 2014, the net win — the amount of money in the machines after payouts to winners — fell 1.4 percent compared with 2013.

Overall, traditional lottery games and the VLT facilities together resulted in a 3.6 percent increase in sales in 2015 compared to 2014 — up to a record $9.4 billion.

The improvements at the video-lottery facilities were led by a 7.3 percent at Batavia Downs in western New York, the harness track that has undergone major renovations. The revenue was up 3.9 percent at Empire City at Yonkers Raceway; 2.4 percent at Finger Lakes in Ontario County; and 2 percent at Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier.

The largest racino is Resorts World in Queens, which netted $831 million in net win last year; second was Empire City at $537 million.

“When our revenues grows everybody benefits – our employees, the city of Yonkers, the county and especially our schools which receive the greatest benefit,” said Tm Rooney, Jr. of Empire City Casino. “We take nothing for granted, and in the coming year we expect to continue that growth as long as there is a level playing field as we compete with other casinos and gaming venues and as new gambling opportunities are considered in Albany.”

Only Vernon Downs in Oneida County posted a decline as it faced increased competition from the opening of the Yellow Brick Road casino owned by the Oneida Indian Nation near Syracuse.

Sales of traditional lottery games were up $274 million, or 3.8 percent.

“The figures prove that New Yorkers continue to enjoy playing responsibly and supporting public education in the state with discretionary income,” Lee Park, spokesman for the state Gaming Commission. “The New York Lottery is proud of this past year’s results and, as the world-record-setting jackpot for Powerball shows, we are optimistic for 2016.”

The increase in 2015 captured some of the sales from the Powerball craze, which started in early November when the multi-state game’s jackpot started to grow, but the biggest increases have happened in recent weeks. It’s up to $1.5 billion for Wednesday’s drawing.

In 2015, some lottery games saw gains.

While Mega Millions’ revenue dropped 16 percent, Powerball sales grew 7.4 percent. The biggest percent gain was in 11 percent in Quick Draw, the Keno-like game played in bars and restaurants that has been expanding its reach and how many games are played each hour.

The improvement for the lottery — by far the largest in the nation — is good news for the state’ gambling industry as it reaches near saturation in the Northeast.

Three upstate casinos — in Schenectady; Thompson, Sullivan County; and Tyre, Seneca County — are set to open within two years, raising concerns that they’ll pull customers from the existing facilities. Tioga Downs is also awaiting final approval from the state to open as a full-scale casino.

The competition is expected to get even greater: New Jersey on Monday announced that it plans to take a referendum to voters to open casinos outside Atlantic City, likely in northern New Jersey — which would impact the new Catskills casino as well as the downstate racinos.