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Mass. casino plan could hurt racino

Mass. casino plan could hurt racino

Saratoga Gaming and Raceway is likely to lose business if a proposed casino in western Massachusetts

Saratoga Gaming and Raceway is likely to lose business if a proposed casino in western Massachusetts is built, a state official said Tuesday.

Mohegan Sun, which also owns a casino in Connecticut, wants to build a new casino off Exit 7 of the Massachusetts Turnpike if gambling is legalized in the state. The proposal has generated controversy in the town there.

If it is built, New York will fight to keep its casinos and racinos vibrant, said John Sabini, chairman of the state Racing and Wagering Board.

“We will do what we can to make New York gaming as competitive as possible,” Sabini said Tuesday at the Hall of Springs, where he was the keynote speaker for the New York Gaming Summit.

The Massachusetts legislature is expected to consider legalizing gambling this fall, according to The (Springfield) Republican.

The newspaper reported Monday that the Palmer Town Council soon will discuss a citizen impact study on putting a casino in the town east of Springfield.

“It would certainly try to lure New Yorkers if such a casino were allowed,” Racing and Wagering Board spokesman Joe Mahoney said Tuesday.

The Racing and Wagering Board regulates video lottery terminal gaming and pari-mutuel betting but has expanded its role under Sabini, whom Gov. David A. Paterson appointed to lead the board last year.

“He told me not to be just a regulator, just a hall monitor,” Sabini said of Paterson. Rather, the board is a “partner to stakeholders” such as horsemen and the Native American tribes that run casinos.

“We have done that, I think, in a way that hasn’t been done before,” he said.

The board’s recently expanded authority allows it now to authorize changes in casino games without the OK of the state Legislature. That won’t affect the machines at the state’s racinos, but the tribal-run casinos could add new games with the state board’s approval.

“Issues that took years to decide before should take months,” Sabini said.

Overall, the state’s gaming industry is doing well compared to other states, he said.

While gaming revenue nationwide is declining, New York’s VLT revenue increased 10 percent last year. Pari-mutuel betting is down in New York but hasn’t suffered as much as in other states, Sabini said.

“People want to get into New York because we’re New York, because we have a population center that has disposable income,” he said.

The challenges involved with the VLTs were discussed at the conference, which took place Monday evening and all day Tuesday.

VLTs eventually are expected to bring about $250 million in revenue to the state, to be divided among state taxes, the machines’ operator, capital improvements at NYRA’s tracks, larger purses for trainers and owners and funds for breeders.

The two-day New York Gaming Summit, now in its eighth year, provides representatives from many of New York’s current and potential gaming operators a forum to discuss state and regional gaming issues.

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