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New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow is leading an effort to include licenses for casinos in the New York City area in the state budget.
Pretlow, who chairs the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, wrote a letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie recommending that the New York Assembly budget proposal include legislation to accelerate the issuance of downstate casino licenses.
To entice state leadership to consider the inclusion, Pretlow advised upping the ante on the casinos’ contribution to education funding.
The Upstate New York Gaming and Economic Development Act of 2013 authorized the state to license up to seven commercial casinos.
The first four casinos — Rivers, Tioga Downs, Resort World Catskills and del Lago — were added upstate. Tribal casinos are additionally scattered across the upper half of New York.
To spark economic development in those areas, the state established a seven-year moratorium from the first casino opening to licensing for the three downstate casinos. This head start ends in 2023.
Existing casinos could benefit from ending the moratorium early. They are entitled to recover license fees if other casinos are licensed before 2023.
For bypassing the final three years of the moratorium to issue three licenses for casinos in the NYC area, Pretlow recommends the state impose a license fee of $700 million per facility.
Additionally, he requests language to require the new licensees to pay back the fees paid by the four casinos already operating.
Pretlow indicated that two existing facilities — likely MGM-owned Empire City Casino in Yonkers and Resorts World in Queens — are willing to pay $500 million to upgrade to full-fledged casinos.
Currently, they may only offer only video lottery terminals and electronic table games. As licensed casinos, they could expand to slot machines, live dealer table games and sports betting.
Pretlow told Online Poker Report that he doesn’t think they would oppose a couple hundred million more to get licenses right away.
In his budget address, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke with pride of not having any new casino revenue in the executive budget proposal.
Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., who last week held a hearing in the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee on the economic impact of the three unused downstate casino licenses, also has indicated that he will push to include expediting the licenses in the Senate budget proposal.
If they both succeed in convincing their colleagues to include the casino expansion in their one-house budgets — and that’s a big if — they believe they can put pressure on the governor to accept their proposal.
“We want to put a billion more into education,” Pretlow said. “For him to line-item that out, he has to also say he’s reducing education funding by a billion dollars. It doesn’t look good for him to say he doesn’t want to do sports betting and casinos because of whatever the reason is, but he also doesn’t want to give a billion dollars to education.
“If both houses put it in our one-house budgets, he will be hard-pressed to veto it. He can say he didn’t want to do it, but the legislature did it.”