Cuomo To Keep New York Casinos Closed, Says They Are Nonessential

Written By George Myers on August 5, 2020 - Last Updated on November 30, 2022

New York commercial casinos will remain closed indefinitely following a decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo’s call to classify casinos as nonessential will keep thousands of employees out of work and leave local governments without millions in revenue.

But it is the state’s hope that keeping commercial casinos closed will help in its comeback from COVID-19.

Governor questions necessity of reopening New York casinos

Cuomo addressed reporters last week regarding his decision to keep casinos closed while allowing other large sites to reopen.

Chief among his reasons was what he considers the nonessential nature of casinos.

The governor also cited concerns about density and compliance.

“A shopping center – people need food, people need clothes, people need home goods,” he said on a conference call. “You don’t need a casino to maintain survival.”

He added, “I understand people in the casinos need jobs. But people in Broadway theaters need jobs. People in movie theaters need jobs. … So, it’s the essential nature and then the risk posed by the business.”

Movie theaters and gyms have also yet to reopen.

The continued closure of casinos will also have a serious effect on the local governments that collect tax revenue from casinos and the nearby economies that rely on patron traffic.

Instead, Cuomo and other Democrats have said the federal government should pitch in funds to help local and state governments.

It remains to be seen how much aid will be provided by Washington.

Tribal casinos return, yet commercial sites stay shuttered

Cuomo’s decision comes as other states have allowed partial casino reopenings. And it is especially bad news for upstate New York’s four non-tribal casinos:

The likelihood of widespread layoffs has been cited often in the months since casinos were ordered to close on March 16. Job losses have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 story for casinos.

More than 4,100 casino workers received WARN notices in July. The notices are meant to prepare workers for layoffs stretching past six months.

Throwing more salt into the wound are the successful, partial reopenings of New York’s tribal casinos. Those sites did not require state approval to reopen.

The tribal reopenings have included strict guidelines like occupancy limits and bans of guests coming from hot-spot states. Such measures have so far prohibited widespread outbreak.

Tribal sportsbooks are also in business, and reopened just in time to take action on MLB’s Opening Day and the NBA’s Orlando bubble.

Commercial casino operators, meanwhile, have complained for weeks that they are not receiving ample information about what it will take to reopen. Many have already developed comprehensive reopening plans.

Yet, the wait continues.

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George Myers

George Myers is a writer with extensive experience in both news and sports reporting. He has primarily covered baseball and football, along with the intersection of sports and lawmaking.

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