Senate Gaming Chair: Legal sports betting would be good for New York

Legislative Gazette photo by Bryce A. Eckwall
The Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Chair, John Bonacic, speaks at the Rivers Casino on Tuesday about the economic impact of casino’s on the state’s economy.

The chair of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee is urging for the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act as a way to increase tax revenue in New York.

The repeal of PAPSA, or the Bradley Act, would legalize sports gambling in the United States, like it is in the state of Nevada, and potentially create a new income stream for casinos and the state.

The case was made by Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, at a panel discussion on Tuesday, Sept. 19 inside Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady organized by the American Gaming Association and local leaders. Experts met to discuss the effects of gaming on New York state following the construction of four new casinos.

Rivers Casino — which opened seven months ago — has benefited the local community in terms of tax revenue and jobs, according to the panel.

However, Bonacic thinks more can be done to help the state’s gaming industry.

“I would love for the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out this unconstitutional sports ban, that [would] benefit this casino,” Bonacic said. “You could have betting lounges subject to gaming regulations on sports betting. It’s going on now illegally, better to do it now legally and recoup the money for all of us.”

The court is expected to hear arguments in the case this fall and a decision could be handed down in 2018.

“How do we grow from a $240 billion industry today into a $300 billion industry tomorrow? As the senator mentioned, one way we could do that is through the legalization of sports betting,” said Steve Doty, spokesman for the American Gaming Association. “As many of you may be aware, New Jersey is currently challenging the legality of the ban on professional sports. New York is one of 14 states that has introduced sports betting bills in 2017 despite there being a federal ban in place.”

The American Gaming Association conducted research that shows the gaming industry overall employs 14,000 people in New York state. Those individuals received a collective annual salary of $827 million, which equates to an annual salary of about $59,000 per worker.

“Rivers Casino has fast become an important part of our community,” said Gary McCarthy, the mayor of Schenectady. “Not only does the casino provide jobs but the entire facility enhances the hard work we’ve put in to making downtown Schenectady a fun place to be and a great place to do business. The city of Schenectady looks forward to a long and successful partnership with Rivers Casino.”

Joining McCarthy and Doty at Tuesday’s forum was Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority; Rivers Casino General Manager Mary Cheeks; Tracy Terry of Digital Xpress, a printing vendor for the casino; Jeff Stark, president of the Greater Capital Region Building Trades Council; Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors Theater; and Jennifer Lawrence of the SEAT Center, an employment training agency.

The panelists, who all had a hand in the Rivers Casino’s development, say they are committed to a long- term relationship that will benefit the local economies.

According to the Rivers Casino Impact Analysis, total gaming tax payout estimates were expected to reach $81.5 million this year, with 10 percent of that being split between Schenectady County and the city of Schenectady. Almost 80 percent of the casino’s gaming tax is allocated to the state.

So far, the city and county of Schenectady have received $1.3 million each in payouts since the casino’s opening in February. The state of New York has collected a total $21 million from Rivers Casino. The counties adjacent to Schenectady have made a collective $2.6 million.

The payouts are falling short of what the casino expected to provide, however, those at the forum Tuesday say they are optimistic.

“These casinos are just starting, you need a good three-year period before you can judge the expectations. And I say no matter what the expectations are, if they come in a little short, it’s a huge success,” Bonacic said.

Panelists say the local community is growing rapidly due to the casino’s “ripple-effect.” The surrounding land in Schenectady, which runs alongside the Mohawk River, is filled with new hotels and construction zones that indicate more is to come. The 50,000 square-feet casino itself is the centerpiece of the harbor-based community.

“This was an abandoned, under-utilized brown field for over half a century. And it took organized efforts to come together in this transitional renaissance that’s occurring at the site,” McCarthy said. “It is a game changer for this community and the region.”

Courtesy of The Rivers Resort and Casino