Bonacic Says Sports Betting Could Save Sagging NY Casino Revenues

Written By Jessica Welman on September 21, 2017 - Last Updated on November 30, 2022
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[toc]Lately there has been more bad news than good news for the New York casino industry. There is the headline-drawing fight between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Seneca Nation. And, of course, there is the increasingly disconcerting fact those new commercial casinos upstate are not living up to expectations.

Thankfully, there were some optimistic moments in this week’s American Gambling Association-hosted panel at Rivers Casino in Schenectady, NY.

AGA panel focused on casinos’ impact on local communities

Perhaps it is because people are criticizing these NY casinos, the American Gambling Association (AGA) hosted its recent panel. Certainly some of the discussion included lackluster revenues. However, there were more positive takes than negative coming out of the event.

For example, Rivers staffers tried to play down revenues and play up the job market. The new casino generated over 1,100 permanent new jobs. That is not even accounting for the work construction of the property created either.

Even better news on the job front is that turnover in the area is below state average, coming in at 32 percent.

Despite less tax revenue for the area than expected so far, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy remained optimistic:

“It is a game-changer for this community and really the region. What community would not want 1,000 new jobs? What community would not want an investment of $330 million?”

Given that the area Rivers exists on was an abandoned site for several decades prior, the area seems happy with progress, even if it is slow.

Sports betting, not online poker, seen as the golden goose

In terms of progress, 2017 was not the worst year for bringing online poker to New York. The state Senate voted yes in the bill, but it died in the state Assembly. This happened in 2016 as well. The difference is, thanks to a new law, the bill will pick back up where it left off in 2018.

However, based on this meeting, it sounds like casino operators think there is a different means to generate revenue for casinos: sports betting in New York.

In fact, the very lawmaker who introduced the online poker bill in the Senate at the beginning of the year is at the forefront of this new idea. State Sen. John Bonacic spoke about the merits of sports betting at the meeting:

“I would love for the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out this unconstitutional sports ban, that [would] benefit this casino. You could have betting lounges subject to gaming regulations on sports betting. It’s going on now illegally, better to do it now legally and recoup the money for all of us.”

The Legislative Gazette also reported similar sentiments from AGA spokesman Paul Doty:

“How do we grow from a $240 billion industry today into a $300 billion industry tomorrow. As the senator [Bonacic] mentioned, one way we could do that is through the legalization of sports betting. As many of you may be aware, New Jersey is currently challenging the legality of the ban on professional sports. New York is one of 14 states that has introduced sports betting bills in 2017 despite there being a federal ban in place.”

The NJ case is in the midst of filing briefs before SCOTUS hears argument later this year. Should the court overturn the federal sports betting law, several states will likely clamor to get in on the multi-billion dollar industry.

Given how much gambling revenue New York already loses to New Jersey, it makes sense to get in on sports betting on the ground floor since its neighbor most assuredly will be.

Photo by BravoKiloVideo /

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the Managing Editor for A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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