New York’s racetracks say they contributed more in various tax and revenue-sharing funding during the first six months of the year than the casinos on the Las Vegas strip and Atlantic City combined.
The New York Gaming Association, which represents nine tracks with VLT casinos, says its facilities since January contributed $620 million in state taxes, state Lottery Division payments, and various revenue-sharing pots, including purses. That is nearly double what the group estimates as $329 million in taxes paid by Las Vegas strip and Atlantic City casinos during the same period.
“Most people probably don’t realize or wouldn’t guess that our nine facilities across the state generate hundreds of millions more for New York than all of the casinos in Atlantic City and the Las Vegas strip combined generate for New Jersey and Nevada, because we do so in such a discreet way,” said James Featherstonhaugh, president of the New York Gaming Association.
The tracks are seeking a foothold in future negotiations at the state Capitol to decide – if voters approve – where additional casinos might be located in the state. The Legislature has given preliminary approval to a plan amending the state’s constitution permitting up to seven new casinos, though, unlike the tracks’ current operations, with a full array of gambling, including table games. The measure requires a second passage by lawmakers before it could go, at the earliest, to a statewide vote in November 2013.
“New York Gaming Association members operate at one of the highest tax rates in the nation and clearly it’s working for everyone. The numbers speak for themselves. Our current model is generating important revenue for the state, our schools, local governments and creating jobs,’’ said Featherstonhaugh, who is also an Albany lobbyist.
The group estimated New York’s tracks in the first half of the year contributed about $417 million to New York’s public schools, which, by law, get a percentage of racino winnings in New York. The actual payments for education and the horse industry – both purses and breeding fund allotments – vary by track and by the financial success each year of the racinos.
The Gaming Association based its numbers on a “blended’’ tax rate for all New York’s racinos. It put that number at 68%. That figure, according to the track group, is made up of 47% to education, 10% to the Lottery Division for administration, and an average of 11% to purses and breeding programs. (The purse and breeding programs are that high, the track group said, because the number is skewed by the 14.5% level by Resorts World at Aqueduct, by far the state’s busiest racetrack casino.)
The Gaming Association based its numbers on an 8% casino tax for Atlantic City casinos and 6.75% for Las Vegas strip facilities. (The final month of the six-month period for Nevada casinos was not available, so the group estimated the amount those casinos would pay during June to come up with a six-month figure.)
The Gaming Association represents racinos at Aqueduct, Yonkers, Monticello, Saratoga, Vernon Downs, Tioga, Finger Lakes, Batavia and Hamburg tracks.
The tracks face an uphill climb in their attempt to convince state officials to give them, as originally sought, exclusive rights for any casino expansion in New York. For starters, there are nine tracks and the constitutional amendment plan only permits up to seven new facilities. Also, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has publicly dismissed the idea that tracks will be the dominate players in any casino expansion, insisting that the state’s budget and economy would be better off putting new gambling complexes in more destination-type locations.