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As Revenue Drops, NY Casinos Get Extra Hours

The state gaming commission issued a rule after legislation passed.

State regulators in New York have acted quickly to issue a new rule letting racetrack-based casinos operate an extra two hours a day.

As the state's track-based casinos continue to endure slumping revenue, the New York State Gaming Commission July 28 approved a proposed rule to permit the facilities to stay open until 6 a.m. The law, recently changed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had previously required the casinos to close at 4 a.m. each day.

The law still permits the nine racetrack gaming facilities with video lottery terminals and other electronic games to operate a maximum of 20 hours a day, but some operators believe they can generate additional revenue by letting gamblers stay until sunrise.

Though the law states the changes took effect immediately upon Cuomo's approval July 22, a spokesman for the NYSGC said tracks must apply to the agency 60 days before any changes to its hours of operations can be made. It is uncertain how many of the racinos will make the change, officials said.

The commission at its July 28 meeting also named Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, a business group, as chairman of a panel that will recommend which developers are awarded potentially lucrative gambling hall licenses later this fall. Law was recently named to the panel, and the commission, which will make the final decision with input from Cuomo's office, named him July 28 to be the chair of the five-member advisory group.

The panel has much work ahead. Besides going through tens of thousands of pages of recent casino applications, the commission announced the advisory group will hold two days of public meetings on the casino plans at the end of August, and then three regional meetings from Sept. 22-24.

Voters last year approved up to seven new commercial casinos. Enabling legislation with the constitutional amendment then calls for the initial four to be located in one of three regions: the greater Albany area, the Catskills/Mid-Hudson Valley, and a third area that stretches from Binghamton area to east of Rochester.

The bidding war is already intense, with applications from companies whose partners include Churchill Downs Inc., Penn National Gaming Inc., Caesars Entertainment, and Hard Rock Entertainment, as well as the operators of New York track-based casinos, including Genting, which operates VLTs at Aqueduct Racetrack. Bidding was closed June 30.

The release of the regulation to permit track-based casinos to remain open until 6 a.m. came as Gary Greenberg, a minority owner of Vernon Downs in central New York, noted July 28 that the state's VLT business continues to be hit by sour financial times. Greenberg said the state's nine racetrack gaming facilities have had nine months of slumping revenue, and that Genting's Resorts World just broke six weeks of straight declines with a modest gain in revenue.

He said the nine tracks for the week ending July 26 saw a net win of $35.9 million, down from $37 million a year ago. Greenberg noted that the Saratoga Casino and Raceway harness track casino experienced a rare decline in business when Saratoga Race Course opened; the harness track's net win for the week ending July 26 was $3.1 million, down from $3.3 million a year ago.