New York State Readies Itself for Casino Expansion

Tioga Downs Casino, New York State’s first full-fledged commercial casino, opened doors less than a month ago, thus marking the beginning of a new era for the state’s gambling industry. Las Vegas-style gambling had previously been provided solely by New York-based tribes. However, legislators seem to have deemed it worth trying to expand such operations beyond tribal lands.

It is yet too early to say whether the state would yield positive results from the endeavor. Yet, hopes are that the launch of four commercial casino resorts in Upstate New York will generate numerous benefits and will convince lawmakers that further expansion, particularly the possible legalization of online gambling, is an idea that deserves broader attention.

A Quick Retrospection

In 2013, New York voters approved at a statewide referendum the construction of up to four full-scale casinos over the portion of land north of New York City. A year later, three such facilities were recommended for licenses by a specially formed Gaming Facility Location Board. Following a pressure by developers, a fourth casino was given the nod by the board in 2015.

Tioga Downs – the last casino to be given the green light – was, in fact, the first to open doors. Tioga Downs Casino is actually the expanded Tioga Downs Racetrack in Nichols, New York. The venue had previously featured horse racing options and slot machines. Following its upgrade, it added table games to now offer full-scale casino offering.

Although it had been the last to be licensed, Tioga Downs Casino was the first to open doors of all four gambling venues. The other three – Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo, and Montreign Resort Casino at Adelaar are all set for 2017 opening.

Del Lago is slated to open doors to guests on February 1. Rivers Casino will be next, scheduled for a February 8 launch. And finally, New York’s fourth commercial casino, the most expensive one, will have its official opening a month later.

Expected Effects from the Expansion

Over the past three years, New York’s expansion efforts have been both staunchly championed and criticized severely. Proponents anticipate additional tax revenue for host municipalities and the state as a whole, improved employment and tourism rates, and other social benefits.

However, opponents fear that four large-scale venues are more than the region can support. According to them, the new casinos may cannibalize smaller gambling and non-gambling businesses.

Other concerns voiced over the past several years were related to the new venues’ profitability potential as neighboring states have, too, been busy with expanding their gambling industries with casino resorts and facilities. Although diversity may be good for customers, it may not be as good for gambling operators. And it may turn out to be a bit difficult for New York’s casinos to attract and retain customers in such a highly saturated environment.

What Does the Casino Expansion Bode for Online Gambling?

According to many, if the launch of the four commercial casinos proves to be a positive move for New York’s gambling industry, this may lead to legislators softening their attitude towards the legalization and regulation of online gambling. However, given the fact that this has not been much of a topic so far, it may take years before the state makes any serious steps towards creating an iGaming regulatory framework and adopting it.

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