While a lot of buzz has been generated about the steps New York has taken regarding mobile sports betting, the state also took action on another gaming front this week. And, according to one lawmaker, that could lead to the state getting millions in funding sooner than previously anticipated.
On Wednesday, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) released a request for information (RFI) solicitation. Unlike a formal request for proposals, the RFI seeks information from companies and groups interested in operating a casino. In addition, the NYSGC will accept feedback from such stakeholders as local governments, neighborhood associations, business associations, labor unions, and other community groups.
Besides determining interest in the casino licenses, the information will help state officials determine if certain areas should be excluded, or if certain areas should receive preference in the proposal process.
The commission will accept questions on the RFI through Nov. 10. Responses are due by Dec. 10.
The state budget that lawmakers passed in April called for the gaming commission to release an RFI to gauge interest in the three licenses. That’s the target that the state can award for what’s considered the downstate region, which encompasses New York City, Long Island, and Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties.
The budget also calls for the commission to disseminate a report of the RFI’s findings to Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature within six months.
License Awards Could Quickly Bring in Billions
If the NYSGC sticks to that time line, then the report would be released in early June, which would be around the time state lawmakers are wrapping up their annual session. However, one lawmaker is hoping the state can get a head start on the process.
Under the current guidelines, the state is supposed to award licenses for the downstate casinos in 2023. The delay was intentional, designed to allow the state’s four upstate casinos to establish themselves before the casinos in and around New York City would come into play.
As state Sen. Joe Addabbo, D-Queens, said, that plan was put forward well before the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit New York City particularly hard. The state and New York City, just like Las Vegas and other communities, needed billions in federal aid to help balance their budgets and shore up lost revenues.
In this time of COVID, where we have been hit financially with hard times, we can’t keep looking to Washington DC and the federal government to give us this birthday gift every year of $12 billion or $24 billion, whatever it may be,” said Addabbo, who chairs the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering. “The idea is we need to look internally for revenue, and here they are – there’s those three licenses.”
With responses coming in by December, the senator said it would give lawmakers a chance to include the casinos in their budget negotiations for the 2022-23 fiscal year. By law, the state must pass its annual budget by April 1, the start of New York’s fiscal year.
While the actual casinos may take years to build, Addabbo said the state can still secure licensing fees. For the three available in the New York City area, they could go for up to $750 million each, he estimated.
“We have these three licenses for downstate gaming in New York state sitting on a shelf right now, doing nothing, and what they could be doing is creating thousands of new jobs in an economy that certainly needs it,” he said.
MGM, Resorts World Looking to Upgrade
Gaming already exists in downstate New York, with Resorts World New York City operating out of Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, and MGM Resorts International running Empire City Casino out of Yonkers Raceway, just north of the Big Apple.
However, those two properties, as well as Jake’s 58 in Suffolk County on Long Island, can only operate video lottery terminals and electronic versions of table games like blackjack and three-card poker. They cannot offer live table games like full-fledged casinos that operate upstate.
Resorts World and MGM have both openly expressed interest in pursuing the full-fledged casino licenses and making upgrades to their properties if they were to receive a license. Other major gaming operators are also expected to express their interest as well in a license in the country’s largest metropolis.
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