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Assemblyman Steck proposes casino funding adjustment

Assemblyman Steck proposes casino funding adjustment

If passed, bill would reduce amount casinos pay to state fund
Assemblyman Steck proposes casino funding adjustment
Photographer: Gazette file photo

SCHENECTADY — With two days days left in the state legislative session, state Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, has introduced legislation designed to reduce the amount of money casinos pay to racetracks

Steck’s proposed bill (A08400) would require “certain gaming facility licensees” to make racing support payments to licensed racetracks in their region and the state Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund.

The bill doesn’t attempt to change the total amount of funds being paid to the fund, Steck said, but rather retools the formula.

Casinos currently pay 100 percent to the fund designed to promote state-raised thoroughbreds, an arrangement that has been in place since the state legalized private casinos in 2013.

Under Steck's proposal, casinos like Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady would pay half and “racinos," or combined racetrack and casinos such as Saratoga Casino Hotel in Saratoga Springs, would pay the other half.

“There is no reason to continue having the casino pay 100 percent of what is essentially a horse-racing function,” Steck said on Monday.

Rivers Casino & Resort paid $3.6 million during the 2017 fiscal year and $4.3 million in 2018, according to Steck. 

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Racing and Wagering, and companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, Jr., D-Ozone Park, chairman of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

Rivers Casino & Resort appears to support the proposed legislation.

“The proposal to rework the horsemen’s tax is a smart way to ensure that a revenue generator and job creator like ours can remain competitive and continue to grow and contribute to our community and state for years to come," said a Rivers spokesman. “Despite facing a structural tax disadvantage in the market and growing regional competition, Rivers Casino has been a winning bet for the region and state by providing hundreds of good-paying jobs and tens of millions of dollars for education and local services."

Saratoga Casino Hotel did not respond to a request for comment.

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