Ten blocks west of Resorts World Casino New York City, a billboard over Rockaway Boulevard advertised casino table games less than two hours away in New Jersey.
To anyone with even the slightest knowledge of marketing, the ad seems to make sense — targeting gamers leaving Resorts World perhaps disappointed that New York City’s first casino lacks real roulette wheels and craps tables.
Sure, the electronic versions of both exist at Resorts World, but for some gamblers, there’s nothing like the real thing.
It had been hoped that if voters approved Gov. Cuomo’s plan to legalize full gaming in New York State, Resorts World would be one of those places where patrons could play traditional table games, but under the proposal to bring full casino gaming to the state unveiled by the governor last week, bettors at the South Ozone Park casino may have to get used to the electric roulette wheel and virtual dice.
According to the proposal, if voters approve full gaming in a statewide referendum, six new casinos with table games will be considered in upstate New York, which will be divided into six regions. Only one casino would be allowed in each region.
But New York City, as well as Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley, would not be in any region, meaning no casino with table games would be allowed downstate, even at the region’s only gaming site — Resorts World.
Specifically, the plan states “Winning projects would be given a five-year exclusive period with no additional casinos sited in New York City or upstate.”
Cuomo said the focus on upstate has to do with the need for jobs and tourism dollars in that part of the state.
At a press conference in Albany last week, Cuomo said the market for casino gambling upstate exists because there are no table games in the city and in order for the plan to be successful, it would have to stay that way.
“This was an issue about New York City,” Cuomo said. “We believe there’s a market being created in upstate New York because there is no casino in New York City and to keep that competitive advantage, we would say there would be no additional casinos for a period of five years.”
In a press release announcing the plan released last Thursday, Resorts World is cited as an example of the success of casinos despite having no table games. The release says the casino “generated $306 million in revenue to the State while employing 1,750 people.”
But state legislators who represent the communities that surround Resorts World reaffirmed their desire to see table games at the casino.
“My support for full gaming at Resorts World has not diminished,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park)
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) described the plan as a “moving target” and said he believes Cuomo can be persuaded allow table games at Resorts World after all.
“This is cement that is still fresh and not hardened yet,” he said. “The governor can only garner support if the legislators back it.”
Right now, the referendum is slated for this November, but any delay in getting it out of the state Legislature could put it off until 2014, when the referendum would be on the same ballot as Cuomo himself.
It is possible that city legislative leaders could prevent a referendum from going on the ballot unless they get an assurance from the governor that Resorts World would be considered for table games. Addabbo said that was not out of the question.
“I can’t tell my constituents to vote for the referendum if I find out Resorts World will not be considered for table games,” he said. “If the governor wants to do three or four gaming sites upstate, I’ll buy into that plan, but only if I hear the next casino will be in Queens.”
Though Resorts World is the only gaming facility in the five boroughs, casino plans had been offered for Willets Point and for Coney Island, but both proposals were killed.
Resorts World declined to comment on the proposed legislation, but the casino’s president, Michael Speller, has said in the past that he fully supports the governor’s call to legalize table games statewide.
Before any new casinos can be built, voters would still have to approve changing the state constitution to allow table games.
A poll by Global Strategies released in early March stated that half of New York voters — including a majority in the five boroughs — opposed the amendment if the state does not allow table games at Resorts World.
The survey was paid for by Genting, the parent company of Resorts World.
Other polls have showed only a narrow majority or plurality of state voters approve of the amendment.