As casino conversations continue in NY, expert says states are in gaming "arms race"

New Paltz, NY – Comments made Tuesday by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have added credibility to the arguments for the state to explore an expansion of casino gambling. WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry takes a look a possible expansion could mean for the state, and the pitfalls that could come with more gaming...

In 2010, gaming tax revenues in New York topped 503 million dollars. There's no denying that gaming can be a lucrative business, but many studies have shown that it can also be costly, due to factors such as increased cases of gambling addiction.

On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo said that his administration was actively looking at the expansion of casinos, fueling what's been a growing fire over the exploration of opening up New York to more commercial gaming. There are those who are outspoken on both sides of the issue, whether it relates to Indian-run casinos, or commercial gaming. New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who sponsored legislation to prevent Indian-run casinos from being established in a number of Ulster County communities, says legalizing commercial gaming would be a process that would take several years.
He says all in all, he's open to the discussion about expanding gaming.

When discussing the economic benefits of commercial gaming, neighboring states often provide arguments for and against casinos. An expansion of gaming in Pennsylvania means 1.3 billion dollars in gaming tax revenue last year, but that activity dealt a significant blow to the gaming industry in New Jersey, which saw tax revenues of over 64 million dollars.

Joseph Weinert is the Senior Vice President of the New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group, an international research and consulting firm, which assists governments and casino investors. He says the impacts of gaming can be measured in many ways, but says the dollars and sense are the easiest to measure. Right now, Weinert says states are engaged in an arms race regarding gaming. For example, he says when Delaware saw that Pennsylvania was going to legalizing slot machines, the state went to implement sports betting. Weinert says states are trying to keep gambling dollars within their borders.

There's plenty of discussion over gaming in Massachusetts, where lawmakers are trying to come up with a plan for casinos. A report released earlier this year by the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth showed that for the seventh straight year, Massachusetts residents generated the most tax revenues at casinos throughout New England, when compared with residents of all other New England states. In fact, since 2004, the center's statistics show that Massachusetts residents were responsible for more than 36 percent of all tax revenues generated through gaming in states like Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine.

Weinert says New York is unique because of its geography, and where gaming facilities are located. He says creating additional gaming venues may have more impacts in state, rather than out of state.
Weinert says that some racetrack casinos in western New York might have a chance to take business from Pennsylvania casinos, but more likely, he believes they would attract players from Seneca casinos, or from Niagara Falls, Ontario.

In a statement from the Oneida Nation, officials said the state could try something it's never attempted, through pursuing a constitutional amendment - or it can bring gaming to the state promptly through existing laws by working closely with in-state Indian nations.