NY Casino Bill Relaxes Hours, Free Play Rules

Legislation passes state senate in final session June 20, awaits governor's decision.

New York lawmakers gave final approval to a VLT sweetener bill the night of June 20 that will allow racetrack-based casinos to stay open until breakfast time and permit more free-play offerings to gamblers in a bid to boost revenues for the tracks and state.

In the waning minutes of the New York Legislature's 2014 session, the state Senate okayed a measure letting racetrack casinos to stay open until 6 a.m. every day. Present law requires the casinos to close at 4 a.m.

The bill was pushed by a number of VLT parlors, but sources say Genting New York, which operates the Aqueduct casino facility, was among those most interested in its passage.

The legislation was introduced in the final couple weeks of the New York Legislature's 2014 session, and passed the Assembly June 19. It now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign or veto it.

Besides allowing VLT parlors to stay open two additional hours each day, the legislation increases the free-play allowances track-based casinos can give to patrons from 10% to 15% of the total amount wagered on VLTs after prize payouts.

"This bill is needed to provide incentives for individuals to visit the video lottery gaming facilities in order for these facilities to enhance revenues and attendance," states a memo accompanying the legislation.

Only one senator spoke on the floor when the bill was considered. "It will just increase gambling," said Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who was one of four lawmakers to vote against the bill

The measure comes after a tough six months for upstate New York track casinos, which have been hit by sliding revenues. It also comes as New York is weighing where to site four commercial casinos with, unlike the track-based facilities, real slot machines and table games.

New York lawmakers June 20 also gave final approval to a measure to let Catskill Off-Track Betting Corp. to spread its operations into New York City. Backers say it will bring back bettors who were once customers of the shuttered New York City OTB. However, sources say Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York and others will likely push for a veto by Cuomo, who two years ago vetoed a similar bill.