Gaming

Time Warner Cable News/Siena Poll: NYers Willing To Gamble On Casinos

New Yorkers in three key regions of the state see both upsides and downsides to the expansion of casino gambling, according to an exclusive Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll.

The survey found registered voters in the Hudson Valley, Southern Tier and the Capital Region believe casinos have the potential to create jobs, but could also bring headaches like crime, traffic and gambling addiction.

The poll sought the opinions of voters in the regions designated for commercial casino expansion, ranging from their expectations for the benefits of casino gambling to their concerns over the potential downsides.

Overall, New Yorkers in the economically troubled Southern Tier are the most supportive of casino development, with 48 percent backing the expansion. Support is weakest in the Capital Region, where voters are almost evenly split: 44 percent support and 40 percent oppose.

Voters in those impacted areas remain mixed on the potential outcomes: 37 percent believe casinos will have positive benefits to their region, while 31 percent expect a negative outcome. Twenty-nine percent believe casino expansion will have little real impact on the area.

“The public is quite wise,” said Siena College Polling Institute Director Don Levy. “They see how what appear to be contradictory opinions and you can hold them at the same time.”

Most optimistic about the long-term outcome is the Southern Tier, where 43 percent believe there will be a positive benefit.

A combined 74 percent believe casinos will bring jobs to their area of the state — a component those surveyed believe will have the broadest benefit to their area.

But at the same time, 51 percent say the state has enough gambling.

“A clear majority says I think there are already enough casinos,” Levy said. “The public is not screaming, ‘Let’s go get a casino.'”

Overall, the poll found New Yorkers living in regions due to get a casino resort are largely ambivalent about the impact.

Forty percent say they expect casinos will create jobs, while 29 percent believe the biggest benefit will be increased tax revenue.

When it comes to the downsides of casino gambling, 36 percent predict increased traffic problems because of the facilities, while 26 percent fear an increase in crime.

The poll found the hope for jobs was strongest in the Catskills and Hudson Valley region, where 42 percent believe casino expansion will grow employment, with 38 percent in both the Capital Region and the Catskills expecting a boost in jobs.

“We are back from the depths of a recession, but there continue to be large numbers of New Yorkers who continue to be unemployed or underemployed, but the idea there are going to be several thousands of jobs available is really quite attractive,” Levy said.

The argument that casino expansion will lead to job creation was a key argument made by campaigns supporting the amendment to expand casino gambling last year.

Whether those jobs come, though, remains a question. An analysis by Moody’s Investor Services found the saturation of casinos along the East Coast resulted in downgrade of Atlantic City in New Jersey. Governor Andrew Cuomo, the main supporter of last year’s successful effort to pass an amendment to expand casino gambling, said it’ll be up to the private market to decide the growth of gambling.

“The private market, which reads Moody’s which does this for a living, will make a determination what scale and scope the market can support,” Cuomo said earlier this month.

Up to four casinos will be built in the first phase of construction, with projects selected by state regulators this fall.

The poll of 816 registered voters in New York was conducted between July 20 and July 23. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points, with a higher margin of error when broken down by region.

TWC0714 Total Crosstabs 072814 (2) by Nick Reisman

Fraternal Order Of Police Back Bonacic’s Online Gambling Bill

The state Fraternal Order of Police on Wednesday endorsed a measure that would allow certain versions of Internet poker.

In a letter to the bill’s sponsors, the group’s president Charlie Caputo endorses the move, writing it would create a carefully regulated system of online gambling.

“Residents who choose to play will then have access to a well-regulated, well-monitored system and will not be drawn into their money or their identities at risk on off-shore, unlicensed, black market sites,” the letter states.

The bill, introduced by Bonacic in March, would allow for online versions of Omaha Hold ‘em and Texas Hold ‘em.

The poll comes as casino magnate and prolific political donor Sheldon Adelson is undertaking a high-profile effort to ban online gambling, and has recruited former Gov. George Pataki to help lobby.

Gaming Letter by Nick Reisman

State Gaming Commission Appoints Two To Casino Siting Board

The state Gaming Commission on Monday appointed attorney Dennis Glazer and Long Island Association President and CEO Kevin Law to its casino siting board both of whom have ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Glazer and Law join former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, former gubernatorial advisor Paul Francis and Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz to the board that will have the power to decide which casino projects move forward with lucrative licences this fall.

Up to four non-Indian commercial casinos will be constructed in the first round of construction in the Albany area, the Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier.

Glazer is the husband of Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, the former Cuomo-appointed chairwoman of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

“Dennis has had an accomplished career and evidences his commitment to public service by taking on this important role,” said Gaming Commission Chairman Mark Gearan. “His legal expertise and impressive leadership in varied sectors combine to make him a valuable asset to the Board, and I thank him for volunteering his time and talent.”

Law has been the leader of the pro-business Long Island Association since 2010 and at one point was considered a potential running mate for Cuomo.

“Throughout his career, Kevin has repeatedly answered the call to public service in New York State,” said Gearan. “His commitment to and knowledge of economic development is tailor-made for the Gaming Facility Location Board, and I thank him for taking on this important task.”

Small Towns, Big Lobbying (Updated)

Nearly all of the communities that are under consideration to host a resort-style casino fall under a population threshold for lobbyists to disclose how much they are spending to influence local officials.

Fifteen of the 16 communities where developers are eyeing casino development have populations under 50,000, a report on casino lobbying released by the New York Public Research Interest Group on Monday found.

The lobbying and contribution data compiled by NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney was first reported by Capital New York.

The entities that lobby those local governments won’t have to reveal how much they are spending to sway local opinion — an important criterion for the state Gaming Commission’s siting board for casino licenses.

The only community that is under consideration for a casino that meets the 50,000-person threshold is Schenectady.

The rest, however, are small communities and cities that fall well below that figure, meaning it will be unknown how casino developers and bidders try to influence them.

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“The lack of disclosure of local lobbying activities in these communities makes it impossible to know how much is being spent to influence these governments and highlights that no single entity is charged with monitoring these activities,” the NYPIRG report found.

Updated: Vince Casale notes the Howe’s Cave-based casino proposal lies within the host community of Cobleskill, which has a population of more than 6,400 people. Howe’s Cave is technically a hamlet and is not a Census-designated community.

In the first phase of casino construction, up to four casinos will be built in three regions of the state: the Capital Region, the Catskills/Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier.

Of course, lobbying for casino gambling in New York is a big business, especially on the statewide level.

Overall, casino bidders and development companies have spent $6.7 million on lobbying campaigns in 2012 and 2013.

Bidders contributed a combined $4.3 million to state and local party committees during those years. Genting Group led the pack in both lobbying — $2.5 million — and in campaign contributions, spending $984,244.

New York state lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment in 2012 and again in 2013 to allow for the expansion of casinos through non-Indian tribe operators. Voters approved the amendment through a ballot referendum in the fall.

In the interim, casino companies lobbied both state lawmakers and voters heavily.

A group funded by casino companies, business groups and labor unions called New York Jobs Now spent $1.9 million supporting the ballot referendum.

When it came to campaign contributions the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee received $199,500, while Senate Republicans received $113,500. The soft-money or “housekeeping” accounts for the the Assembly Democrats also received $77,500 from casino interests, while Senate Republicans were also given $77,500 in soft money funds.

Among elected officials, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s re-election campaign received the most funds, $66,000.

casinocontributions

16 Vie For Casino Licenses

Sixteen casinos submitted detailed applications to the state Gaming Commission on Monday by the 4 p.m. deadline.

Gaming regulators this afternoon reported the potential casinos in the three different regions including five applications for the Capital Region, eight in the Catskills/Hudson Valley region and three in the Southern Tier.

The state’s casino siting board will pick four projects for approval later this year.

06.30.14.CasinoApplicants by Nick Reisman

Casino Applications Flow In

More than a dozen gaming entities are submitting literally tons of paperwork to state regulators today to vie for casino licenses in the first round of siting.

The applications require nearly 200 pieces of information including an explanation as to a construction timeline to the casino’s business plan.

The information being released today is expected to provide specific details on the projects around the state for casino construction, with proposal being picked by the fall by the casino siting board.

The first round of casinos is being limited to four regions north of New York City: the Hudson Valley, the Capital Region and the Southern Tier.

Saratoga Casino and Raceway is applying for two projects, with resorts proposed in East Greenbush near Albany, and a second in Orange County.

Caesars Entertainment Corp., meanwhile, submitted an application for an $880 million resort in Woodbury, a project the company estimates will bring $230 million in annual tax revenue.

In Sullivan County, Empire Resorts, Inc. submitted an application for a $1 billion-plus proposal that includes a waterpark, golf course and “adventure park.”

Howe Caverns Resort and Casino also submitted an application for a Capital Region casino, with operator Full House Resorts proposed to run the casino. One of the company’s original founders is former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca.

Gaming Commission Sets Minimum Capital Investments For Casinos

The state gaming commission’s casino siting board on Monday announced the minimal capital investment for casinos in each zone and region.

The investment must include the cost of a casino in a specific area and at least one hotel with additional amenities.

The minimum capital investment is set depending on a variety of factors for a region, including whether a casino is sited in a specific county.

For instance, in the Catksills/Hudson Valley region, the minimum capital investment for a casino placed in Dutchess or Orange counties is $350 million.

But if a casino is not placed those counties, minimum investment for Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Sullivan and Ulster is $130 million.

In the Southern Tier-designated areas of Wayne or Seneca counties, minimum investment is $70 million, the lowest amount needed for a casino-resort facility.

Gaming regulators say they have reviewed a variety of factors in determining the minimum investment, including the climates of carious states such as Massachusetts, Maryland Ohio. The board also reviewed economic and financial models based on estimated gaming revenues for potential locations.

Up to four casinos will be constructed in the first phase of casino construction, including the Albany area and the Southern Tier.

New York’s Big Bet: Not Leaving Corruption to Chance

ICYMI: Here is the final installment of our three-part series on the expansion of casino gambling, New York’s Big Bet. You can view the full series, plus web extras, here.

Fortunes are won and lost in casinos, but a fortune could also hinge on where one is built in upstate New York — and where.

With so much money at stake, critics of casino gambling say the process has the potential to be corrupted.

“I think the public should be very watching very carefully, I think that advocacy groups should be watching very carefully all of the filings for everyone – not just at the state level, but at the local level and elected office. Where is the money pouring in and for what reasons?” asked state Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan.

State officials and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have insisted the ongoing process to select a casino development project will remain free of corrupt influences, pointing to numerous safeguards put in place, as well as an unusual level of transparency when it comes to the information on the potential developers.

“The cynics said, ‘you’re not going to get the applications, the time is done, gaming is over the curve.’ I think you’ve had more interest and it’s gone better than people suspected that it might early on, so I’m very pleased,” said Cuomo.

Nevertheless, Cuomo’s office isn’t leaving much to chance. According to an internal memo by the governor’s top legal aide, Mylan Denerstein, first obtained by Capital Tonight, Cuomo administration staffers are warned to avoid any contact with casino lobbyists or supporters about the placement process:

Since you may not know whether the person communicating with you is representing a bidder, you should assume that everyone contacting you about any of these issues is representing an interested party and decline to discuss the matter.

New York does not have the best track record with corruption to begin with, and influence from casino companies and other gambling interests have proved for some especially troubling in previous years. In 2010, the state inspector general issued a scathing report blasting the Paterson administration and state lawmakers for turning a bidding process for video slot machines at the Aqueduct Race Track into a “political free for all.”

“For an endeavor of this size and scale, you certainly want to have a comprehensive review process. I’m not going to sit here and say the state always gets it right,” said Heather Bricetti, the Business Council president.

An effort last year to block casino companies from donating to the campaigns of state lawmakers and other candidates was quietly removed from legislation governing casino gambling. The change gave gambling opponents pause.

“I’m very worried still about the corruption influence of gambling and in fact those who have controlled casinos in different states throughout the country have been found to bribe local officials, make side deals with local officials,” Krueger said.

Yet, the state Gaming Commission and gaming facility location board is requiring a large swath of information from developers including financial data. The Gaming Commission’s website is also posting the names of the lobbyists who are representing the various casino developers, and the state is contracting with a Chicago-based law firm to conduct extensive background checks on the companies wishing to build casinos.

“It’s a very voluminous process and the paper applications alone probably constitute 40 pounds alone and you have to submit 20 copies,” said Wilmorite CEO Tom Wilmot.

Developers aren’t necessarily complaining about the state’s financial and legal x-ray of their businesses, noting it’s good for business if the selection process is above board.

“It has to be comprehensive. They have to make the right decisions and they’re doing their due diligence,” said Sal Semola, the president of Foxwoods Catskills Resort.

For now, gambling opponents say they’re watching closely to see how the development process unfolds.

“When millions and millions of dollars are spent on lobbying, there’s no way for a disinterested decision to be made,” said Stephen Shafer, of Coalition Against Gambling.

NY’s Big Bet: How Opposition Campaigns Impact Casino Placement

ICYMI: Here is part two of our series on the expansion of casino gambling, New York’s Big Bet. Part three, taking a look at the myriad regulations to guard against corruption, airs this evening. Online exclusive content from this series can be found here.

Saratoga Springs seems like a natural place to put a destination resort and casino. The prosperous Upstate city owes much of its success to its beloved race track.

And yet vocal opposition arose to the idea of having a full-blown casino with table top games at its racino, where video lottery terminals are currently allowed.

I knew it was a big deal. I guess what I wasn’t prepared for was the influx of extreme negativity that I was hearing from our constituents with regards to a full-blown Las Vegas style casino,” said Mayor Joanne Yepsen, D-Saratoga Springs.

Like many local elected officials in the wake of the statewide casino referendum’s passage last year, Yepsen had to navigate the push for a casino and a passionate base of opposition to one.

“The question for me always was, after Prop One passed, is it better to have a full-blown casino in Saratoga Springs or 30 minutes down the road, and my community expressed an awful lot of opposition for a variety of reasons,” Yepsen said.

In the end, foes of a casino won and the owners of Saratoga Casino and Raceway instead submitted proposals for locations Rensselaer and Dutchess counties.

The reasons for the root of the opposition to a Spa City casino are varied.

“This town – even though it does have gambling, it’s history isn’t just gambling. It’s so much more. We’ve seen a revitilization in the last 30 years focusing on a solid downtown core,” said Colin Klepetar of SAVE Saratoga.

Opposition to a casino in Saratoga isn’t all that surprising. After all, the county voted down the casino referendum last year.

Meanwhile, concerns arose that a casino would potentially draw visitors away from a bustling downtown and be in competition with venues like the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

“I think it’s not really that surprising. I think that the racino and its size today fits with the scope and scale of Saratoga Springs. The legislation calls for a really massive project with hotels and ameneties and that just does not fit the scope of Saratoga,” said Sara Boivin of SAVE Saratoga.

Supporters say casinos aren’t a competing business for a local economy. Instead, they can compliment existing businesses and destinations.

“I think that was sort of the conventional wisdom when the whole process started was that Saratoga was a place that made sense and the reason being was because they have other attractions,” said Business Council President Heather Briccetti. “There’s a lot of studies out there that show these are complimentary things. They’re not competitive.

The Cuomo administration opposed a bill that would have required a local referendum before a casino could be built in a given community, pointing to enabling legislation that included language for local input.

Nevertheless, the state Gaming Commission adopted a rule that local support be a key factor in its casino placement.

“You want to make sure that this is development that’s supported by the community and the local issues are addressed — the roads, the bridges to get to this facility,” said Sen. Cecilia Tkacyzk, D-Duanesburg.

In the end, the placement of casinos is being decided by the state, but a well organized local opposition campaign could have a huge impact on powerful interests.

NY’s Big Bet Part One: Locating A Casino

Here is part one of our three-part series on casino development, New York’s Big Bet. Part two, which focuses on local control of casino siting, will air tonight on Capital Tonight.

You can watch web-exclusive extras here.

The promises from potential developers of resort-style casinos in upstate New York are huge. As the area gears up for the first round of casino bidding, a complicated and potentially fraught process is taking shape.

In April, 22 bids accompanied by a one million dollar filing fee were submitted to the state’s Gaming Commission. Of those, four projects will be selected to build in three regions of the state: The Capital Region, the Southern Tier and the Catskills and Hudson Valley. Selecting the projects are former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, and gubernatorial adviser and businessman Paul Francis.

“There seems to be more interest than I think many people initially anticipated. We’ve seen 22 submissions so far, which is quite a few consider there are only four slots available,” said Heather Bricetti, Business Council President and CEO.

The developers pledge to transform a moribund economy in a region that has spent a generation struggling to retain jobs, businesses and people.

In a few cases, however, the developers are not being very forthcoming. In some instances, they have not revealed exactly where they would build a casino and others are yet to select an operator to manage the casino.

Nevertheless, some developers are more than happy to share their plans and how they’ll be linked with a local economy. In Seneca County, developer Thomas Wilmot says his resort would be linked with the Finger Lakes wine country.

“It will have a huge impact and then there’ll be many local companies which will be providing a wide variety of services to this facility,” said Wilmot.
We anticipate that many of those patrons will also use other services, whether they go on to visit wineries, do shopping at the outlet center in the immediate area, stay in local hotels.”

Other projects pledge to revive a local economy, such as Foxwoods developers, who believe the Catksills can see economic growth and increased tourism once again thanks to casino gambling.

“If you look at what led to the demise of the Catksills – basically affordable, convenient transportation, that’s no longer the case,” said Sal Semola, president of Foxwoods Catskills Resort.

For business leaders who support casino gambling, this can give developers a leg up in the selection process.

“That is what will set proposals apart – the concepts that integrate themselves into the regional economy so they can build off of what’s already there and make a more attractive picture for tourism,” Bricetti said.

Not everyone is convinced. Opponents of gambling note that casinos can actually make a local economy worse, with issues ranging from increased costs to law enforcement to the impact a gambling addiction has on families.

“Underneath what looks like money coming into the community, there’s also a tremendous loss,” said Stephen Shafer, Coalition Against Gambling in NYS.

A portion of the revenue generated by casino gaming is required by law to be directed to problem gambling, but Shafer believes both the state and casino companies have little interest in helping those with additions.

“About half the revenue from the average casino comes from the net losses of problem gamblers, so the better job the state or the casinos do at deterring and curing problem gamblers and treating and helping problem gamblers recover, the lower their revenues are going to be,” Shafer said.

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