“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (I Timothy 6:9-10)
In a commentary dated December 11, 2016, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms predicted that a variety of negative consequences would result from the opening of four Las Vegas-style gambling casinos in upstate New York. Specifically, we noted that “[when] too many casinos open in a given area, the casinos fail to prosper; in some instances, casinos have actually obtained government bailouts in order to stay open.”
It’s only the first year of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s upstate casino experiment, but this scenario may not be far away.
Earlier this month, the racino at Vernon Downs postponed its scheduled opening day for harness racing, “pointing to increased competition from three casinos in the region.” On the same day, the owner of Vernon Downs—real estate tycoon and major Cuomo donor Jeff Gural—complained that Vernon Downs “[had] lost an average of $150,000 a month since November.” Displeased with this turn of events, Mr. Gural “called on the state to give [Vernon Downs] a tax break [to] shore up its finances due to the lost revenue.” Keep in mind that Gural isn’t just the owner of Vernon Downs; he also owns Tioga Downs, which is one of the four Las Vegas-style casinos that have opened in upstate New York over the past year. Located in New York’s Southern Tier, Tioga Downs is just a two-hour drive away from Vernon Downs in central New York. While there are a few other casinos in the Central New York region, we can’t help but wonder if competition from Tioga Downs is a partial cause of Jeff Gural’s financial woes at Vernon Downs.
In any event, one thing is clear: Jeff Gural’s money problem at Vernon Downs is not the responsibility of New York’s hardworking taxpayers. If Mr. Gural looks to the state government for financial relief for his racino, Members of the State Legislature should provide a clear and definitive answer: No dice.