Casinos in New York Change As New Laws Are Written

September 12, 2012

In New York state, casinos which are actually racinos — that is, horse racetracks that also have a license to operate electronic slot machines — may be changing and becoming even more like Las Vegas casino resorts, due to the recent laws passed. Some of those racetracks, such as the Aqueduct out near the JFK Airport, have an entire separate building to house their slots areas, and the lighted signs on their fronts proclaim they are “casinos.” In most cases, the number of slot machines they possess is so large that they need the space. These are huge operations. For instance, the Monticello Raceway has 1,800 slots. You can’t exactly tuck those in the corner of the coffeeshop.

In March this year, the signing of an expanded gaming bill amended the state constitution to award a small number of table gaming licenses for poker, blackjack, roulette, and craps. Two northern state racinos, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, owned by American Racing and Entertainment, LLC, showed themselves eager to apply and to show they can handle the challenge of operating a full-scale casino.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was key in persuading the New York state legislature to vote for the state amendment and referendum. There are Indian casinos on tribal land currently in the state; there are 9 racetracks, which were granted expanded licenses to operate electronic slot machines; and so gambling was already taking place in-state, Cuomo indicated. What he did not mention was the competition from nearby large casinos, such as Casino Niagara across the Canadian border.

Those busy competing for the New York table games licenses include Genting Berhad, a Malaysian corporation which owns a stake in the Aqueduct Racino in the Queens neighborhood of New York City. The casino building of the Aqueduct just opened in October 2011. Genting Berhad, headed by K.T. Lim, is pouring $4 billion more into the property, planning a new convention center, three hotels comprised of 3,000 rooms, an entertainment center and area for more slots and table games. The Genting family has previously been interested in building at the Monticello Raceway, owned by the St. Regis Mohawks, but plans there apparently have been at least delayed if not scuttled.

Genting Berhad also owns stakes in Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, through its loans to that and the other 2 properties through its subsidiary, Kien Huat Realty. Genting’s ambitious building plans, and the fact that it is planning to spend enormous sums of money while other casino corporations are in difficulties, has generated intense interest in the company and its executive, K. T. Lim. The company began with the production of palm oil and rubber in Malaysia.

Not only are the big properties affected by new legislation, but also individual, small bars and other shops. You see, previous gambling in New York included the Quick Draw, New York’s state lottery game, as soon as a bill helped place the game terminals in restaurants. Instituted under former Gov. David Paterson, permission to play the Quick Draw machines was limited to those 21 and older; the machines were available just 13 hours a day, but could be placed in bars, pubs or taverns. A trial period for the game ended, but it was revived later, with the regulation that they could not be approved for any place that served alcohol. In fact, food revenue had to be at least 25% of the shop’s income. This year changed that. The sale of food is no longer a requisite to own a Quick Draw gaming machine; bars are now permitted to have them too. Bar owners find them a good attraction to retain customers longer.

Quick Draw was the game that the New York State Lottery decided to offer in a lottery machine available in retail establishments and bars, on a trial basis for 4 years. It was begun in 1995. Its numbers were drawn every 4 minutes for almost, but not quite, 24 hours a day. A ticket cost a dollar, and one game’s prize was worth $100,000.

Nearly every state has recently been reconsidering loosening gaming restrictions, and most justify the decision with the claim that they are competing for revenue with other states surrounding them.



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