By James Featherstonhaugh
President of the New York Gaming Association
New York State has been in the gambling business for decades. But for the first time in our state’s history, lawmakers in Albany are acknowledging that reality, and have started a process to take advantage of it for the benefit of all New Yorkers and especially Queens residents.
While we’re still a long way from a constitutional amendment that will legalize enhanced gaming, including table games, Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers should be commended for taking the first step. They passed amendment legislation that puts us on a path to create thousands of jobs for New Yorkers and keep billions of dollars currently being spent elsewhere right here in the Empire State.
Albany needs to pass the amendment a second time next year, and then it goes to voters on the ballot. New York does gaming the right way. We have a unique public/private partnership between the state and our nine racetrack casinos spread across New York – including Resorts World in Queens – that is the envy of other states.
Gaming venues are sensibly located, thoughtfully regulated, and operated in a socially responsible, economically reliable way that promotes everyone’s interests. Because of this, New York leads the nation in gaming revenue. But we could do much better. Currently, we lose up to $5 billion annually in gaming revenue to surrounding states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and soon, Massachusetts. These dollars are lost primarily because racetrack casinos are arbitrarily limited by our Constitution and cannot have the kinds of games you can play in other states.
For example, in New York you can play roulette, but only if the ball is rolled electronically and not by a real person. That is a distinction without a difference, and one that is currently costing us billions of dollars and thousands of jobs every year.
Consider the positive impact Resorts World has already had in Queens, where 1,500 people have been hired, and the casino has poured more than $105,000,000 into the state coffers for education. With enhanced gaming, those numbers will only go up.
There are still a number of outstanding issues that need to be resolved. But the members of the New York Gaming Association have proven track records of generating millions for the state and being among the largest employers in their regions.
The public should be excited that New York is implementing gambling in the most socially responsible and fiscally reliable way, so that we can reap the maximum benefit from casino gaming.