Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced an agreement on the Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act, which will establish four destination gaming resorts in Upstate New York and boost tourism and economic development in the region.
"Today's agreement with the Legislature would establish world-class destination gaming resorts to attract tourists to Upstate New York, generating economic activity for local businesses and creating thousands of good paying jobs where we need it most," Governor Cuomo said. "This legislation is a major step forward in our efforts to both capitalize on this economic development and tourism potential and end the trend of letting neighboring states with legalized gaming take revenue that should be going to our schools. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Legislature to make this economic development "game plan' a reality."
Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leader Dean G. Skelos said, "This agreement paves the way for critically important economic development to take place throughout Upstate New York and will build on our efforts to revitalize communities, invest in schools and provide statewide property tax relief. I thank the Governor, the Speaker, and Senate Racing Chairman John Bonacic -- who was instrumental in achieving this agreement -- for their hard work. This plan, if approved by voters, will greatly benefit Upstate New York and all regions of the state."
Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leader and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey D. Klein said, "We need to provide upstate and central New York communities with every opportunity to stimulate their local economies and build a long-term growth strategy. If the people of New York agree that this is a fair and smart way of doing so, these regions will be provided with one of the most promising opportunities in years. Critically, this plan presents a clear opportunity to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding for our schools and our children. I am pleased that this agreement establishes the sound, non-political criteria for resort selection that New Yorkers deserve. I commend my colleagues for uniting around a strong proposal that elevates economic development, funding for our schools, and local property tax relief above all else."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "Expanding casino gaming has the potential to provide an economic boost for several upstate regions, create new jobs and increase our state's viability as a true vacation destination. Other states have experienced the benefits of gaming and now voters will have the opportunity to decide."
Senator John Bonacic said, "For fifty years, the Catskills have sought gaming as a way to grow our tourism based economy. The gaming bill can create thousands of upstate jobs. New Yorkers now have a choice -- keep our money in State creating jobs, improving education, and providing resort entertainment experiences; or help Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Now it's up to the people."
Chair of the Racing and Wagering Committee and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow said, "Our agreement to bring casinos to the Catskills, the Southern Tier and the Capital Region is good for the local economy, the state economy and the people of New York. It will put hundreds of New Yorkers to work and help solidify the entire state as a tourist destination for people across the country. I commend my Assembly colleagues, the Governor and the Senate on their ability to come together to make this exciting idea a reality in our state."
The legislation includes these key details:
Locations of Destination Gaming Resorts:
- The legislation authorizes four upstate destination gaming resorts to enhance tourism development. Destination gaming resorts will be selected competitively based on the economic development impact of the resort.
- Destination gaming resorts are authorized in three regions of the state: the Hudson Valley--Catskill area, the Capital District-Saratoga area, and the Eastern Southern Tier. One region may have up to two casinos if determined by the state siting board.
- No destination gaming resorts can be authorized in Westchester, Rockland, New York City, or Long Island. There will be a 7-year exclusivity period during which no further destination gaming resorts will be licensed by the State.
Regulation and Selection:
- The State Gaming Commission will oversee regulation of destination gaming resorts.
- The Gaming Commission will appoint a siting board of individuals with expertise in finance and development, which will determine the required minimum amount of capital expenditures and license fee required of a destination gaming resort applicant in each region and make the selections.
- The tax rate on slot machines will be equal to the tax rate of existing video lottery gaming facilities within each region which currently ranges from 37% to 45% depending on the region.
- The tax rate on table games will be 10%.
- Existing payments to the racing industry for purses and breeding will be maintained.
- There will be no destination gaming resorts in regions with tribal exclusivity agreements.
- The board will be required to evaluate destination gaming resort applications based on specific criteria: 70 percent of the decision on siting a destination gaming resort will be based on economic activity and business development factors; 20 percent on local impact and siting factors; and 10 percent on workforce factors.
- Local support for the Resort application must be demonstrated as a threshold application requirement.
- The Gaming Commission is authorized to investigate the suitability of the gaming license applicant, including character and financial stability, and sets criteria for licensing individuals and businesses employed by or doing business with the resort.
- Destination gaming resorts and all related service industries will be strictly and comprehensively regulated by the Gaming Commission. The minimum gambling age in destination gaming resorts will be 21, and no smoking will be authorized in the four destination gaming resorts.
All Localities Benefiting from Education Aid Increases:
- 10% of the State's tax revenues will be split equally between the host municipality and the host county. 10% of the State's tax revenues will go to other counties in the region of the destination gaming resort to provide tax relief or educational assistance. 80% of the State's tax revenues will be used statewide for elementary and secondary education or property tax relief. The educational aid will be additive and will not be part of the State's existing education formulae.
- If the gaming referendum passes, 10% of the net gaming revenue retained by the State from Indian gaming facilities will be distributed to counties in each respective exclusivity zone that do not otherwise receive a share of exclusivity revenues.
Addressing Problem Gambling and Cheating:
- Funds for problem gambling will be added through the imposition of a $500 annual fee on all slot machines and table games. Destination gaming resorts will be required to develop comprehensive problem gambling programs, and part of the decision for siting a destination gaming resort will be determined by the quality of the applicant's problem gambling program. All destination gaming resorts will be required to have exclusion policies, and the statute provides for individuals to exclude themselves from the destination gaming resorts.
- New categories of gaming specific crime legislation are added to prevent cheating at destination gaming resorts. Cyber sweepstakes cafes are specifically made criminal.
- A state gaming inspector general's position is authorized to prevent corruption at the Gaming Commission.
Agreements with Indian Gaming:
- The exclusivity of Indian gaming zones is affirmed.
Video Lottery Terminals:
The legislation authorizes Nassau and Suffolk OTB to establish one video lottery gaming facility each at an OTB site with a maximum of 1,000 machines at each site.
In the event that the gaming referendum does not pass, the Gaming Commission is authorized to competitively site up to four video lottery gaming facilities, one per region, in the Capital District, Eastern Southern Tier, Catskills, and Nassau County, based on revenue generation and economic development criteria. Additional video lottery gaming facilities in New York will secure new funding for educational assistance.