NY Racetrack Casinos Tout Financial Benefits

Timed to possibly affect casino expansion talks at the state capitol building, the New York Gaming Association April 29 released an annual report that shows its nine racetrack-based casino facilities generated $1.8 billion in gross gaming revenue in 2012 and turned over $823 million in taxes to the state.

The gaming association, which has been lobbying to permit Class III gambling at track-based casinos, said $28 billion was bet last year at its member operations.

"The most important fact of the New York gaming model is that it is, by far, for and about New Yorkers. And as this report shows, our nine existing facilities are tremendous economic assets that should be nurtured and developed," said James Featherstonhaugh, NYGA president and a part owner of Saratoga Casino & Raceway.

State officials are pushing to conclude final negotiations for casino expansion legislation before the legislature ends its 2013 session in June. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers want to add up to seven non-Indian casinos, though precisely where they would be located has not yet been decided.

Voters would have to approve the plan, which would go on the November ballot if Cuomo and legislators reach a deal by June.

The track-based video lottery terminal casinos have a two-pronged strategy: They either want new casinos, with real slot machines and poker and other table games they are now prohibited from offering, or they want the state to keep any new casinos far enough away from their operations to limit competition.

Cuomo has suggested he has little interest in placing the Las Vegas-style casinos at tracks, and that he prefers "destination-style" facilities in regions that will bring the most jobs and the most money for the state.

In its annual report, the NYGA claims its nine racetrack casinos had a $1.7 billion economic impact on the state, including directly employing more than 6,000 people with payrolls exceeding $160 million. The report said 28 million people visited the facilities to bet through the 17,000 VLTs.

In all, New York's track-based casinos have generated $3.8 billion in revenue-sharing proceeds for the state. The $823 million the facilities paid the state in 2012 is up from $500 million just two years earlier, further evidence of the successful showing by Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack since it opened in 2011.

Under a state-imposed revenue-sharing formula, the racetracks steered $211 million to the racing industry, including purse account totals of $44 million at New York Racing Association tracks and $11 million at Finger Lakes Casino & Racetrack. NYRA's capital fund, used for various infrastructure improvements, received $27 million, the report said.

Several lawmakers have been pushing to try to ensure casino expansions be permitted at tracks in their districts. But it is a numbers game; there are nine tracks, and the constitutional amendment plan calls for seven new Class III casinos.

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