There’s still no clear winner in the legislation written by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to place three live-table casinos in upstate New York.
State legislators, business leaders and racing officials were still digesting the proposal Thursday afternoon, a day after the 207-page bill was introduced. The proposal outlines four possible upstate regions, including the Capital Region, that will compete for one of three casinos.
A full copy of the bill can be found on the Capital Region Scene blog.
There are eight days left in the legislative calendar to pass this legislation and a constitutional amendment allowing for seven non-indian live-table casinos. If it is passed, a statewide referendum on the constitutional amendment is expected in November.
Rita Cox, Saratoga Casino & Raceway’s vice president of marketing and external affairs, said her racino will be actively pursuing one of the licenses, assuming the governor’s proposal and the constitutional amendment are approved.
The Saratoga racino’s attempt to get live-table games could be aided by a planned $30 million expansion that would include a 120-room luxury hotel, space for banquets or concerts, a fine dining restaurant, spa and indoor pool. An investment including “at least one hotel and other amenities” is required from any applicant vying for a casino license.
Cox said the hotel plan is the right move for the property and will help it grow, but acknowledged that considering the legislation’s investment requirement, it also could be a “positive thing” in the bidding process.
State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, also had a feeling that the legislation boded well for the hopes of the Saratoga racino. “I think that looks pretty good,” he said.
If live-table games aren’t awarded to the Saratoga racino and a casino is placed in the Capital Region, Cox said the racino would be at a competitive disadvantage because of lower tax rates that are planned for the new casinos. The Saratoga racino has an effective tax rate of about 67 percent, while the new casinos would be taxed at 25 percent.
It’s not clear what the proposal’s ramifications are for the racing and breeding industry in and around Saratoga Springs. Officials from the New York Racing Association and New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association declined to comment, saying they were still reviewing the plan.
State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, who was still analyzing the proposal and talking to stakeholders, stressed the importance of continued support for racing purses, breeders and horsemen. She said the state’s breeders and horsemen have benefited from payments coming from video gaming at the state’s nice racinos. “It has been a great marriage,” she said of the collaboration.
Cuomo’s legislation includes a section on “distributions to the racing industry,” but future payments are contingent on who gets a casino license. The governor’s office did not reply to an email inquiry about the intent of the distributions to the racing industry described in the bill.
Jack Knowlton, co-owner of Sackatoga Stable and a fixture of racing in Saratoga, said it was good news that the governor included a payment structure, but couldn’t speculate on what the impact might be. “Depending on where [casino are placed], it could be beneficial,” he said.
A requirement that racinos continue to offer horse racing if they’re awarded live-table games was viewed positively by Knowlton.
Potentially complicating the passage of Cuomo’s casino plan by the end of the legislative session on June 20 is an alternate proposal from the Senate Republicans, but the Capital Region’s three Republican state senators were all confident a deal on the siting legislation could be reached.