The pandemic hit the hotel and tourism industry extremely hard. But the acceleration of the three licenses for downstate New York casinos — which were included in the final state budget — should help change that.
The New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council (NYHTC) is the union for hotel and gaming workers in New York and Northern New Jersey. The council has approximately 37,000 members — including around 10,000 who remain unemployed.
During the height of the pandemic, 95% of union members lost their jobs. However, things have picked up as hotels reopen and operate in a limited capacity.
Employing people, one NY casino at a time
The possibility of turning perceived frontrunners Resorts World NYC and MGM Empire City from video lottery terminals into full-scale casinos would allow for thousands of additional jobs in the quickest fashion.
While an open, competitive bidding process will need to occur first, those properties wouldn’t have to go through the zoning/community scrutiny process.
NYHTC president Rich Maroko said in a statement:
“The impact of the COVID crisis on New York’s hotel and tourism workers has been more severe and the effects longer lasting than on almost any other industry.
“Thousands are still unemployed and facing dire economic hardship. The expansion of full casino gaming to the downstate area is exactly the boost we need to create access to high-quality jobs for thousands of unemployed or underemployed New Yorkers, while generating billions in revenue for the state.
“This is the win-win we’ve fought so hard to achieve over the past two years. We thank Gov. Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Heastie and members of the State Legislature for their leadership in making this victory happen for thousands of unemployed New Yorkers.”
‘Thousands’ of NY casino jobs
Resorts World NYC is the union’s single largest employer, featuring jobs with full benefits and salaries averaging in the $80,000 range.
It is also in the district of Sen. Joe Addabbo, chair of the Senate’s racing, gaming and wagering committee. Addabbo said:
“Those are jobs for my people who have been hurt by the pandemic to provide for themselves and their families. I need those jobs. I need those construction jobs and post-construction jobs. So if it was to be Resorts World, I’d want that as soon as possible.”
Resorts World NYC would be, Addabbo said, essentially a “plug-and-play” situation because it already has a hotel and would need to add machines and tables — and then train additional employees.
Meanwhile, MGM Resorts CEO/president Bill Hornbuckle acknowledged the need to build a structured parking garage if MGM Empire City received a casino license. But with 97 acres of land in Westchester County, there is certainly room for expansion for the property.
“To their credit, MGM is also well-respected in the market and has had success in the market, so who knows what they could do with all that land there, and there are thousands of jobs involved,” Addabbo said.
Billions to state education
In recent weeks, Maroko has written multiple columns in local newspapers. He notes the great success of online sports betting in NY since it launched on Jan. 8 — operators have combined for $5.3 billion in total bets, leading to almost $175 million in tax revenue through April 10. But actual, physical jobs haven’t come with that.
Maroko wrote in the NY Daily News on March 26:
“Since it opened in 2011, Resorts World NYC has generated more than $3 billion in revenue for state education funding, while during the same period, Empire City Casino in Yonkers has contributed $2.66 billion to state education.
“Right now, New York’s two downstate racinos already provide more than 2,000 New Yorkers with good-paying union jobs and comprehensive benefits including health care, dental, vision, short- and long-term disability, life insurance and retirement plans. These benefits have served as an absolute lifeline for those workers, the vast majority of whom are people of color and women, whose communities have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19.
“A recent state Gaming Commission study estimated that allowing existing gaming facilities to expand with full-scale casino licenses could generate between $420 million and $630 million annually, while opening the door to the creation of thousands of union jobs with industry-leading wages and benefits.”
As noted in the New York Times, the hotel union has provided at least $880,000 in lobbying funds to NY Democrats since 2020.
“I can’t imagine a world where they don’t get two of the three licenses,” one casino industry source said.