CAPITOL — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said he is opposed to bailouts for the state’s four new non-Indian casinos as they continue to bring in less revenue than expected.
The Daily Gazette on Tuesday reported that Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady had requested reductions on some of the payments it must make to the state. Also Tuesday, Finger Lakes-area media outlets reported that Del Lago Casino and Resort in Seneca County had made a similar request.
Both moves come in the final hours of state budget deliberation, during which deals are struck, stricken and superseded in secret by a handful of state leaders.
One of that handful, Cuomo, came under partisan criticism when two of the new casinos whose creation he had advocated said they needed financial assistance. Among the critics was Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse-area Republican hoping to unseat Cuomo in the November election.
Later Wednesday, Cuomo told reporters the state’s casinos have to operate under the terms of their agreements. A USA Today Network video shows him saying:
“The upstate gaming casinos are private concerns. They bid, they made an investment and some of them will say they’re not doing as well as they hoped or would have expected but they’re private concerns, and I don’t want to get into the business of bailing out private concerns.
“We did casino gaming to create facilities, generate economic development to create jobs and it has done that. These facilities have done billions of dollars of construction and they employ thousands of people. So to the extent you have a casino saying ‘You know what … I’m not meeting my expectations, I should get help from the state,’ I’m not sympathetic to that.”
Any help from the state would cut into a tax revenue stream that already is smaller than was projected when legalized casino gambling was proposed to voters.
Rivers projected tax payments of $69 million to $86 million during its first year of operation but paid $45.45 million to the state from March 2017 through February 2018. Del Lago projected $59 million to $76 million but paid $42.92 million.
Both have been open about 14 months. Tioga Downs Casino in the Southern Tier has been open about 16 months and has missed its projections by similar margins. Resorts World Catskills opened in Monticello only last month. Revenue in its first five weeks of operation has been in the same range as Rivers and Del Lago, though Resorts is a much bigger project that was projected to produce more revenue.
On the other side of the coin, the state’s casinos have produced the benefits Cuomo mentioned: thousands of new jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars each in construction spending, tens of millions of dollars in host community benefits, and millions more in tax payments to local governments.
Rivers, for example, is a $300 million project located on a formerly contaminated factory site that sat mostly derelict along Erie Boulevard for a generation. It employs approximately 1,100 people; has paid about $10 million to the city, county and surrounding counties since it opened; and will pay $3.52 million in property taxes in 2018.
A New Jersey public relations firm representing Rivers Casino & Resort refused to comment Tuesday and again Wednesday.