Gov. Hochul Still Strongly Backs Downstate NY Casinos

Written By J.R. Duren on October 31, 2022
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Upstate casinos were all the rage during the Andrew Cuomo days of New York’s governorship.

That changed, however, when Gov. Kathy Hochul took over after Cuomo left office in 2021. Hochul has been a vocal backer of bringing three downstate New York casinos to guests and she reiterated that position in a C-SPAN debate with her Republican opponent, Lee Zeldin.

“No, we’re not going to stop the process,” Hochul said in response to a question about downstate casinos. “This is an opportunity to recharge downstate communities.”

Hochul emphasizes job creation at new New York casinos

One of the key points Hochul made about casinos is that she believes bringing three new casinos to the southern part of the state will boost state revenue and the workforce. She said:

“We have opportunity to create thousands of jobs. A lot of New York City workers were in the hospitality field, and worked in entertainment and places where they still haven’t come back yet because of the pandemic, that we can give them jobs working in these places as well as generating more revenues for our children to able to get a good education.”

Indeed, New York’s entertainment industry was struggling at the beginning of the year. The arts, entertainment, and recreation section were around 25% smaller in January 2022 than it was before the pandemic, according to a January 2022 report from New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

The city was still down 160,000 jobs across all sectors, New York City Comptroller Brand Lander said at the New York State Financial Control Board’s annual meeting in September.

Two of three likely downstate license recipients won’t be an issue

In general, industry experts agree that two of the three downstate licenses included in New York’s fiscal year 2023 budget will go to MGM Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World NYC in Queens.

The two “racinos” already run successful video lottery terminal (VLT) gambling operations. Because they’re a fixture in their communities, there shouldn’t be much pushback if they convert to full-fledged casinos.

However, the third casino license may cause issues for Hochul. It’s assumed that the recipient of that license would build a new casino instead of converting an existing VLT property. Several interested parties, like Caesars and Thor Equities, have already shared some details of their plans should they receive a license.

That approach presents a host of hurdles. The developer would have to run the regulatory gauntlet that is zoning. Second, it would have to win over the people in the community.

State regulations require a community advisory committee to vote for a new casino with a two-thirds majority. Finally, it would have to gain approval from the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board.

Potential spots for that third license include:

  • Willets Point
  • Hudson Yards
  • Times Square

While the idea of a Manhattan casino may be tempting, many see it as a losing bet. Residents don’t want it, real estate magnate Jeff Gural said in an interview this summer.

“It’ll be opposed in Manhattan by everybody,” he said. “Nobody supports it other than my friends who own real estate and I feel bad for them … They have no shot. No one wants a casino.”

Photo by AP Photo/Joshua Bessex
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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