Casino Operators Vie For Downstate Licenses

The state of New York is preparing to issue three casino licenses in the New York City metropolitan area.

In 2013, New York voters approved a state constitutional amendment that allowed the state to issue seven casino licenses. Prior to the passage of that amendment, Vegas-style casinos featuring table games were not allowed to operate on non-Indian lands within the state of New York. Also in 2013, the Legislature passed the Upstate NY Gaming and Economic Development Act. This law allowed the state to issue up to four licenses for casinos in upstate New York; it also placed a moratorium on the issuance of casino licenses in the New York City metropolitan area. Subsequently, new state-licensed casinos opened in Schenectady, Seneca, Sullivan, and Tioga Counties. In the 2022-2023 New York state budget, Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Legislature agreed to end the moratorium on downstate casinos. On January 3, 2023, the New York State Gaming Facility Location Board opened the application process for casinos in the New York City metro area.

Now that the downstate casino moratorium is no longer in place, would-be casino operators are circling New York City like vultures in an effort to obtain one of the three newly-available licenses. This is not good news for New York City. Casinos are predatory enterprises that promote addictive gambling. Also, casinos are not good neighbors. If Vegas-style casinos come to New York City, crime rates—already at a troubling level—could increase.

There is good news, however. According to City & State New York, downstate casino applicants must satisfy a daunting set of requirements and “convince at least four appointees of a six-member community advisory committee that the project will be suitable for the area.” Thankfully, some New York City elected officials are less than enthusiastic about opening up their communities to casino development. One such elected official is Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), who recently said, “‘I am never excited about the expansion of gambling activities. They can be addictive, exploit those least able to afford to lose their money, and redirect people’s disposable income away from other activities and toward the owners of the gambling concerns.’”

The requirement that casino applicants obtain local support for their projects gives everyday New Yorkers an opportunity to influence the process. At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we encourage New York City residents to contact their respective state legislators and city councilmembers and send a clear message: Keep casinos out of our neighborhoods.