New York Voters Approve Commercial Gaming


Yesterday voters in New York approved a constitutional amendment to expand commercial gaming in the state, The New York Times reported.  The proposal was supported by 57 percent of voters, many of whom appear to reside in New York City and on Long Island, where allies of expanded gaming focused campaign efforts. Several upstate counties, specifically Erie, Onondaga and Madison, opposed the referendum. 

Now casino developers will compete for the right to build new casinos in New York. Initially, the state legislature will only permit four new casinos, and they will be confined to three specific regions in upstate: around Albany, in the Catskills-Hudson Valley area, and in part of the Southern Tier, which borders Pennsylvania.

Eventually, the amendment will allow up to seven full-scale casinos throughout the state, excluding tribal territories, where the state’s five Indian gaming tribes operate existing casinos. Gov. Andrew Cuomo referred to the revenue-sharing deals signed between his administration and tribes in a statement issued following the approval of the referendum.

“This vote builds on the landmark agreements we reached with Native American tribes this year, ending expensive court battles and unnecessary discord and restoring hundreds of millions of dollars to local governments,” Cuomo stated.

Gov. Cuomo, a vocal advocate for the addition of destination-style casinos, anticipates the gaming expansion will deliver a significant economic thrust to economically distressed regions.

“We literally hemorrhage people from the borders who go to casinos,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters after voting in Westchester County on Tuesday, the Times reported. “I think it will keep the money in this state, and I think it’s a major economic development vehicle for the Hudson Valley especially and for upstate New York.”

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New York State is also home to nine slot machine parlors at racetracks.

In addition to extremely positive wording on the ballot highlighting the potential positive outcomes as a result of gaming expansion, the vote was helped by a last-minute $4 million influx of money from casino developers and unions, funding TV ads and direct mail campaigns supporting the passage of Proposition One, reported The Buffalo News.

New York State’s two largest Indian gaming tribes, the Oneida Indian Nation and the Seneca Indian Nation, have previously reacted cautiously to the potential for commercial gaming in the state.

“There is a delicate balance between the potential economic benefit gained from gaming and oversaturation that will undermine the social and economic fabric of our communities,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter told Indian Country Today Media Network last year. “Economic development for New York is a positive goal toward which all of its residents should work. That economic development should be targeted to locations that are in need of financial stimulus.”

The Oneida Indian Nation, which owns and operates Turning Stone Resort Casino and a number of other enterprises in Central New York, has contributed more than $2 billion on builders and vendors, while generating $155 million in income, property and sales tax revenue for the surrounding communities since the tribe inked its compact with New York State 20 years ago. The resort and casino alone brings 4.5 million visitors to the area each year for a variety of attractions.

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Please check back with Indian Country Today Media Network for more updates on the expansion of commercial gaming in New York State.