It was one of those behind-closed-doors negotiation sessions, all too common in political circles especially when gaming is on the table. New York legislators last week approved a constitutional amendment authorizing up to seven casinos in the state. It was the first of two separate amendments necessary to send the issue to a public vote; next year’s session will have to approve a similar measure in order to send it to the voters in November 2013.
Not surprisingly, there were no details provided in the late-night agreement. But the private negotiating, which included several other critical issues for the state, was interesting in its timing. If you take a recent report seriously, New York is particularly secretive in its actions compared to other states. A State Integrity Investigation conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International gave New York a “D” for corruption risk, ranking it 36th among U.S. states. “Albany is defined by dysfunction and corruption,” noted the report. In all fairness, no state received an “A” rating.
Ok, no real news there. Back to gaming. Gov. Cuomo followed up the agreement with comments to the media stating there had been no discussions about where the seven casinos would be located, other than the general desire to spread them geographically to provide the best overall economic benefit. And he also said there would likely be a competitive bidding process and there was no guarantee that the nine current racetrack casinos would have preference.
But can anyone really envision a New York with 16 casinos (nine video gaming tracks and seven new casinos) plus seven tribal gaming facilities? That certainly can’t be what they have in mind. In reality, the 16 gaming properties that currently exist cover the state fairly well. They hit most of the major population centers already. Sure, you could argue that there should be a casino in Albany, but Saratoga Springs, a great place to visit, is just 30 minutes away.
Yes, there may be one or two locations that might make feasible additions to the current mix – but certainly not seven. Presumably at least a couple of tracks will be numbered among the seven, even with competitive bids. But why should some tracks get table games and others not? Why not just turn all nine tracks into full casinos and be done with it? It gets revenues flowing a lot faster and saves the state a lot of work. That makes a lot of sense. Oops, asked and answered. This is New York, right?