Proponents for the legalization of expanded gambling in New York have new ammunition following a Feb. 16 report that estimates the state’s nine racetrack casinos, or racinos, contributed nearly $2 billion in economic activity to the state last year.
Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway accounted for 35 percent of those dollars, with more than $262 million in direct and indirect economic output and another $425 million in direct and indirect revenue for the state and surrounding municipalities, according to the report, which was commissioned by the New York Gaming Association.
In Sullivan County, the Monticello Casino and Raceway pitched in more than $25 million to the local economy and more than $37 million in revenue for the region and state.
The NYGA is a nonprofit advocating on the behalf of the state’s nine racetrack casinos.
The research was conducted by Appleseed Inc., a New York City firm specializing in statistical analysis.
The state Education Fund was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the nine racinos’ 2011 successes. Under rules set by the state Division of the Lottery, a certain portion of each racino’s net winnings – 47 percent on average, statewide – goes directly to the state’s education coffers; last year, that amounted to $830.5 million, according to the NYGA report.
In addition to education dollars, the various economic contributions measured by the report included employee salaries, purchases of goods and services, investment in the horse racing and breeding industry, tax revenue and other state and municipal contributions.
The Yonkers and Monticello racinos are also among their respective region’s biggest employers.
Last year, Empire City Casino employed more than 3,000 full- and part-time workers through its casino and its racing and breeding operations, while Monticello Casino and Raceway employed 580 workers.
Timothy Rooney Jr., general counsel at Empire City, said projected revenue for the state and municipalities and total economic activity generated by the state’s nine racinos would explode should an amendment to the state’s constitution be passed legalizing Las Vegas-style gambling.
At Empire City Casino alone, Rooney foresees “potentially investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the site” if an enhanced gambling amendment passes, with likely additions including a hotel, a 5,000- to 8,000-seat entertainment venue, restaurants, a spa and other amenities.
“If we had the full casino gaming that would probably mean a more significant investment would be made to the property,” Rooney said.
Local officials have commented in recent months on the need for a larger, more up-to-date entertainment venue in Westchester to draw higher-profile events, but Rooney said such an addition would likely happen only in the event of expanded gambling.
“We actually have looked at it before, and while there’s a need there, the economics probably don’t pan out unless we have full casino gaming,” he said. “An arena is probably around an $80 million investment. The business model is hard to make work without the full casino gaming.”
In the coming weeks, the NYGA is expected to release a second report that assesses the potential economic impact of enhanced gambling in New York State.
Such an amendment would require the approval of two successive state Legislatures and the approval of a public referendum, making November of 2013 the earliest an amendment could be passed.
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