New York casino revenues falling short of projections

September 20, 2017 06:43 PM

SCHENECTADY -- Gamblers were supposed to flock to Schenectady and place their bets on a new casino. The operation was expected to roll in big bucks. They are bringing in money, but it's just not what they projected.

"I never saw the casino as being a primary engine of economic development," said Assemblyman Phil Steck, who represents Schenectady.

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But even so with a different perspective, Steck voted for Governor Andrew Cuomo's initiative to allow seven full-scale casinos in New York State. So far, three are operating, including Rivers Casino. It was an effort to revitalize the Upstate New York economy. Steck said the casinos are doing what they're supposed to do.

"Casinos are popular with a lot of people. It's already generating revenue for the various municipalities in Schenectady," he added.

The Gaming Commission said the casinos have also created thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in private construction spending. However, returns on their revenue are less than stellar, according to the Commission's own numbers. It said that Rivers Casino is at about 77 percent of its lowest revenue projection for the year. A spokesperson for Rivers Casino released this statement:

"We're satisfied with the performance of Rivers Casino & Resort and have received positive responses from many of our guests and team members during our first seven months of operation. This past summer, we celebrated the grand opening of The Landing Hotel, a wonderful addition to Schenectady, bolstering the city's transformation into a true destination. We're particularly proud of Dukes Chophouse for already earning a coveted "Diners' Choice Award" from Open Table.  We recently brought to the Capital Region the nationally televised show Poker Night in America, with some of the biggest stars in poker, and hosted the American Gaming Association's Small Business Jobs Tour.  As promised, Rivers continues to provide high-quality jobs, along with strong community and economic benefits."

The majority of the tax revenue from the casinos help education funding. The Gaming Commission said school funding will not be affected because it's determined independently from gambling revenue.

The Gaming Commission released this statement:

"It's much too early to make any judgment on gaming performance. There are three commercial casinos operating for less than a year, two of which have just opened hotels. Tioga Downs' hotel is opening later this year.
A fourth casino, the $1 billion Resorts World Catskills in the town of Thompson, will be the largest of the four and is opening in early 2018. All four destination resort properties were built/are being built with entirely private investment - no taxpayer dollars.

It is entirely premature to give credence to any analysis of how well the casinos are operating. In fact, the Gaming Facility Location Board asked specifically for estimated gaming projections for THIRD year of operation in its 2014 Request for Applications. Such an estimate is a better metric for analysis, as it assumed all four facilities would be fully constructed and operational, and have at least two years to establish themselves in the region and marketplace.

The fact that 17 applicants competed for just 4 licenses proves that there was and is a viable market for destination resort gaming in Upstate New York. The notion of saturation in the gaming marketplace has always been an issue. That's why the Gaming Facility Location Board selected appropriately sized and scoped facilities in regions that could implement them as part of a greater regional economic development approach."


Dan Bazile

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