When the racino at Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park opens this fall, it will have video lottery terminals for its patrons to play — but table games could eventually be available as well.
Gov. Cuomo said at a news conference in Albany last week he is considering legalizing commercial, non-Indian casinos in New York. Aqueduct’s Resorts World New York City racino is already legal because it has electronic slot machines but not the more lucrative table games.
Cuomo noted that New Yorkers also will gamble in other states, such as New Jersey.
“It’s happening,” he said of gaming coming here.
Cuomo’s support will almost certainly bolster lobbying efforts by Genting — the group that will run the Aqueduct casino — to get state legislators to permit table games at its facility, scheduled to open in October. According to media reports, Genting is spending $1 million a year with lobbyists in Albany on this effort.
The dtate Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee is considering a proposal for a constitutional amendment to permit table games and has scheduled hearings on the subject for this fall.
Current law only authorizes the Aqueduct casino to have VLTs, and a constitutional amendment would be required for table games.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), whose district includes the casino, favors expanded gaming there. He said Cuomo’s support would add “serious momentum” to the effort.
Addabbo said he supports full-fledged gaming because it would create jobs and boost revenue for the state lottery system, which subsidizes public education.
Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) agreed, calling it a “win-win” situation.
Miller said it would be “a boon to our community” and said he would definitely support table games.
Noting that Genting had promised that 1 percent of their net profits will go back to the community, Miller said, “any way that we can increase that net profit for them would also help the organizations within our local community.”
Ozone Park resident Linda Wilkens, who lives near Aqueduct, said she is in favor of the addition of table games to the slots at the casino because they would bring more jobs to the community and more revenue to the state.
“I’m for it,” she said. “I think that it will give a boost to the neighborhood.”
Wilkens added that she plans to go to the casino when it opens.
Leila Haime of Lindenwood acknowledged the positives of having table games at Aqueduct but is concerned about an influx of visitors to the neighborhood and increased traffic congestion.
Resorts World New York City officials said they would welcome table games but are focused on opening the racino.
“We’ve been consistent and clear in our belief that our local area would benefit from the thousands of jobs, and all of New York State would benefit from the tax revenue, that would come with table games at Resorts World,” said company spokesman Stefan Friedman. “Therefore we, along with our partners at the New York Gaming Association, support a constitutional referendum on table games.”
A change in the state constitution would require adoption by two separately elected sessions of the state legislature and then voter backing in a statewide referendum. The earliest such a statewide vote could occur is November 2013.
American Indian tribes recognized by the federal government, unlike private operators, have the right to build and operate full-fledged casinos with table games such as blackjack, poker and roulette.
Native Americans also received news last month that the U.S. Department of the Interior rescinded a Bush-era rule and said that it would consider allowing tribes to build casinos far from their reservations, raising the possibility that new gambling resorts could be built close to New York City.
The rule, adopted in January 2008, said that tribes could not open casinos beyond commuting distance from their reservations.
The Shinnecock Indians of eastern Long Island are considering building a casino at Belmont Park racetrack in Elmont, LI, not far from Aqueduct.
A Long Island newspaper reported that representatives of the Shinnecocks recently presented a rough sketch of a proposed casino and hotel complex at Belmont to civic groups from the Nassau County neighborhoods surrounding the famed horse racing venue.
Other competitors for the slots-only Aqueduct casino are the gambling cruise ships operating out of Freeport, L.I., which sail in the Atlantic past the three-mile limit where gambling is legal. One company, taking aim directly at the Aqueduct racino, has touted its off-shore offerings as a better bet.
There is also competition from tribal casinos in the state. The Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone casino near Syracuse and the Seneca’s two locations near Buffalo already operate full-service gaming.