A bad bet on impact
A few years ago, New York took a gamble on casinos to provide an economic boost.
In 2013, state voters approved a constitutional ballot referendum that allowed the state Legislature to authorize as many as seven new casinos in the state. The proposition was couched as an economic development initiative that promoted job growth and more tax revenue for schools while increasing property tax receipts to local governments.
The first of those new casinos, Tioga Downs, opened in December. Jeff Gural, the casino’s owner, told the New York Daily News a couple of weeks ago that Tioga Downs is missing its premarket projections by 35 percent. “The reality is that it is a saturated market upstate,” Gural said. “Everybody is competing for the same customer.” Casino.org, meanwhile, compared license applications for the Rivers Casino near Schenectady and the del Lago Casino in the Finger Lakes with tax receipts and found both underperforming projections by at least a third.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators built budgets based on revenue projections from the casinos that may have been overly enthusiastic. That’s bad news when coupled with the Seneca Nation’s decision to withhold payments to the state for its casinos in Salamanca and Niagara Falls. The impasse is likely headed for arbitration.
Doubling down on casinos may not have been a wise choice for state officials. If the casinos’ finances don’t improve by the end of the year, perhaps state officials should hedge their bets.