Blood Horse

Hoping to convince state officials to give them full-blown casino rights, New York’s racino operators say their financial performance continues to improve and is outpacing percentage returns of casinos in nearby Northeast states.

The New York Gaming Association, which represents nine racinos in the state, reported gross gaming revenues of $147 million in January, up 8% from January 2012.

Those numbers, the group said, buck the trends of casinos in New Jersey, where gross gaming revenues fell 16% in January from the previous year, and in Pennsylvania, where the revenues slid by 1% during the month.

Most of New York’s racinos have been experiencing an increase in business, except Yonkers, which has seen revenues decline since the period before the opening of the successful racino at Aqueduct Racetrack. The gaming group is using the performance numbers to try to prod Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers to give tracks the preference in any casino expansion effort in New York.

Cuomo has said tracks should not be given any special preference when it comes to possible casino expansions. He has suggested there are better locations for what he believes will be destination-style resort casinos.

Lawmakers last year approved a first step to amend the state constitution to permit up to seven new casinos on non-Indian lands in New York. If the same resolution passes this session, it could go to voters statewide as early as November. The governor and lawmakers are still negotiating where the casinos might be permitted and how the operators will be selected.

The gaming association said racino revenues are up even though New York taxes the facilities at an average of 67%. That’s compared to 55% in Pennsylvania and 9.25% at Atlantic City casinos.

“While other Northeast gaming states continue to struggle, New York’s model is thriving, allowing us to generate ever-growing revenue for education and support for the racing and breeding industry,” said NYGA President James Featherstonhaugh, who is also a part-owner of the racino in Saratoga Springs. “New York’s current gaming model is an obvious win for taxpayers and the envy of our neighboring states.”

The gaming association, according to a review of campaign finance records, last year donated nearly $300,000 to various politicians and party committees in New York. It does not include thousands more donated by its individual racino members. The year before, the gaming association donated $2 million to the “Committee to Save New York,” a group that has spent millions promoting Cuomo and his policies.

The association also recently reported in an annual filing to a state ethics agency that regulates the lobbying industry that it spent $33,000 on various consulting work and studies during the last six months of 2012, and another $38,000 on lobbying. The tallies do not include campaign donations.

In its financial disclosure filing with the state, the group reported raising $872,000 from its nine members last year, led by $296,000 from the Yonkers racino and $292,000 by Resorts World, the Aqueduct casino run by Genting New York. At $94,000, the Saratoga harness track racino contributed the third highest amount to the group, followed by the $54,000 from the Monticello racino.

The payments to the gaming association were based in the beginning on the number of machines at the facilities; dues, or payments, are now based on a revenue-based formula, which means the Genting facility will, by far, give the most in 2013 of the nine members in the trade group.