Blood Horse
By Tom Precious

New York’s nine racetracks, which are lobbying to expand their businesses into full-fledged casinos, claim 8,200 permanent jobs would be created if they are permitted to enhance their gaming operations.

A racetrack-funded study estimates that letting the racetrack casinos expand beyond video lottery terminals to Las Vegas-style gambling, including table games, would generate $3.3 billion for the state’s economy in the way of everything from salaries to the purchase of goods and services.

The study by the New York Gaming Association, which represents the nine tracks, comes as New York officials are weighing a constitutional amendment to permit the expansion of casino gambling beyond those now permitted on Indian-owned lands. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has offered a brief amendment to the constitution for the casino expansion, but he has not said where he believes the new gambling should be located or how many additional casinos the state should permit. He has said that debate can occur next year in separate legislation beyond the two identical resolutions the legislature would need to approve in two successive sessions; the earliest a required statewide referendum could occur is November 2013.

The Cuomo administration has privately raised concerns about the gaming association’s proposal to have any casino expansion occur at existing operations. The governor has instead talked of expansions occurring at “destination-type” locations, though he does support a plan by Genting New York to permit other gambling devices at the new VLT casino at Aqueduct as part of his overall plan to construct the world’s largest convention center at the Queens facility. The administration has talked of having the casino amendment question be negotiated after state budget talks in March, though there are growing indications the governor would like the issue folded into the fiscal negotiations so they don’t drag over into the usual end-of-session frenzy in June.

The gaming association study said 17,000 construction jobs would be created if tracks were permitted to expand their operations. On an annual basis they projected an economic impact of $976 million once the expansions are in place. The industry-funded study estimated $317 million in annualized funding for the state from revenue-sharing deals with the nine tracks. The 8,200 new jobs would come, the study said, from “direct, indirect, and induced jobs” from the new casinos in both part-time and full-time positions.

For the racing industry, the study projected $26.3 million in additional subsidies from the nine tracks for breeding and purse accounts.