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NY Tracks Awarded Extended VLT Hours

Law's stated purpose is to increase revenue in light of increased competition.

New York racetrack gaming facilities, most of which have been facing slumping financial numbers this year, will be able to stay open later into the early morning and be authorized to offer more free play as a way to increase video lottery terminal revenue.

State law now permits the track-based casinos to be open no longer than 20 hours a day with doors closing at 4 a.m. Under the bill signed July 22 by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the VLT operations will be able to keep their machines going for bettors until 6 a.m.

Nine tracks in New York have VLTs and other electronic games connected to a central computer at the state lottery offices. Genting New York, operator of the successful casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, was said by sources to be among the most active promoters of the bill.

The measure approved by Cuomo also allows the tracks to increase the annual value of free play allowance credits provided to gamblers from 10% to 15% of the total amount wagered on VLTs after payout of prizes. According to the New York State Gaming Commission, the nine track-based casinos in June issued $16.5 million worth of free play allowances.

The law is effective immediately. A legislative memo accompanying the bill states the bill's intent simply: "The purpose of this bill is to enhance the revenues of video lottery gaming facilities in New York."

The measure takes effect as New York is weighing where to locate the first of four full-blown commercial casinos, which will be able to offer real slot machines and table games. A decision on who gets the licenses, and where, is expected this fall.

The governor's approval of the new provisions also comes as gambling enterprises in the Northeast, especially in New Jersey and Connecticut, are seeing slumping revenue amid a surge of new competition for gambling dollars.