Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not expressly condemned online gambling expansion, but a recent comment to a local reporter indicates he may proceed cautiously on a the issue.
Cuomo concerned about local brick and mortars
FiOS1 reporter Andrew Whitman broke the story on Twitter with a quote from the Governor’s office on how he felt about the iPoker issue.
The response came not directly from the Governor, but from his Press Secretary Dani Lever:
“We just legalized destination resort casinos with the intent to increase tourism in underserved parts of the state. Any proposal that could potentially impact that would have to be reviewed very carefully.”
Three of four new casinos just opened upstate. They are the byproduct of a gambling expansion law Cuomo signed into effect in 2013.
The addition of the four new properties expands the total number of casinos and racetracks with gambling components in New York to 19.
Some concern over land-based casino expansion
The new casinos are literally weeks removed from opening and questions are already circling about whether or not the area is too saturated for all of the properties to succeed.
“I think it’s individual with each of them,” James Featherstonaugh, the president of the New York Gaming Association, told the Rochester Deomcrat and Chronicle. “They are convenience casinos, if you will. So it is very much sensitive to the local market.”
Assemblymember and chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee J. Gary Pretlow was much more optimistic about the new properties in the same article.
“They will all work. The people who spent a lot of money putting these together know what they are doing,” he argued.
Pretlow did go on to concede there is some risk expansion will hurt the existing marketplace, especially in Ontario County.
“I do think that area of the state is a little bit saturated, and it’s going to hurt the racetrack at Finger Lakes. And the racing industry depends on Finger Lakes.”
Online gambling could help, not hurt
What Cuomo may not realize is that iGaming would not introduce new competitors to the marketplace. Rather, online gaming creates another revenue source for existing brick and mortar casinos and racetracks.
Pretlow was once a critic of online gaming, but walked back his statements once he visited with regulators in New Jersey to see how the system works.
The Garden State is a great case study of the positive impact regulated online gambling can have on a land-based casino industry, as online poker and online casinos have helped turn around the struggling Atlantic City economy.
In January of this year the state had a big month boosted by record numbers for iGaming. Overall casino revenue exceeded $200 million, $19 million of which was earned online.
Whitman clarified in subsequent tweets that Cuomo may not have fully vetted the issue at this point. The initial statement from his office was in direct response to Whitman bringing up the subject.
Cuomo’s stance on gaming mixed
Since Cuomo took office in 2011, he has been relatively supportive of gambling issues, but rarely is the voice at the forefront of gaming expansion.
Last year he signed a bill authorizing daily fantasy sports. He also authorized corporate casino expansion.
More recently Cuomo vetoed a law which would allow online lotteries to help support local charities.
With online gaming being seriously discussed in the state, now is the time to take action. You can make your voice heard to Cuomo and other local lawmakers here.
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