New York, Nuuuuuu York

Posted on June 20th, 2013

Are we going to see a big expansion in the casino industry in New York?

It looks like it might be heading that way, as the politicians seem to be plotting something. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders are planning  to ask voters in November to amend the State Constitution to allow a big expansion of casino gambling.

Voters will be asked to authorize up to 7 new casinos, (although the politicians say that the law will only allow 4, planned for the Catskills, the Albany area and the Southern Tier region along the border with Pennsylvania).

If it gets the go ahead, New York would become the most populous state in the US with Las Vegas-style casinos with table games like craps and roulette. New York already has five casinos owned by Indian tribes, and 9 horseracing tracks with electronic gambling, (racinos), so gambling is pretty popular. The new casinos would not be near the tribal casinos or in New York City.

It’s an attempt to boost the economies of upstate regions with gaming, tourism, and, they hope,  jobs.

But the referendum is far from a cert. Only 48 % of New York voters are in favour, according to a recent poll. Support for the proposals was especially weak in New York City.

“It’s pretty much a 50/50,” said Maurice Carroll, the director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Gaming companies have been spending top dollar lobbying and making political donations to try and influence lawmakers: to the tune of nearly $2 million some sources reckon.

An example is Genting New York, which has donated more than $125,000 to Republican and Democratic candidates since the 2010 election. The new casino deal would ensure the company’s monopoly in the borough for at least 7 years.

Another opponent could be the New York Gaming Association, which runs the state’s racinos. For obvious reasons.

The state’s bishops were also concerned about the danger of compulsive gambling.

The casino bill would also give the green light to 2,000 new video lottery terminals — similar to slot machines — in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

The bill is all part of a trend in the US to try and get the unemployment levels down, particularly outside the main metroplitan areas. Casinos are seen as one way of raising tax revenue, boosting tourism and creating employment.

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