Working through the weekend, lawmakers in New York approved the state budget, accelerating the path for casinos in the New York city area. Lawmakers approved a minimum licensing fee of $500 million short of what the industry and some lawmakers expected. The deal also includes protections for the horse racing industry via support payments for Standardbred and Thoroughbred tracks in the state. Both breeds will also have access to support for purse accounts, breeding, and development funds.

Details of the Approval

The final budget came together on April 8 with lawmakers continuing to discuss options through April 9. Lawmakers decided to maintain financial support payments from video lottery terminal revenues for the racing industry. This was an important factor for racing, considering that the Yonkers and Aqueduct properties might obtain full casino licensing.

The gaming facilities will pay the same amount they did in 2019 and adjustments will be made on an annual basis determined by the consumer price index. The decisions by lawmakers are a win for the racing industry, one that has suffered from some legislators wanting to send VLT subsidy payments as well as protests by animal rights groups.

The New York Racing Association confirmed that the new casino measure will ensure that money will continue to flow through the racing industry, on such items as purses. Continuing the payments based on 2019 is important because it was the highest year for the support payments. With the additional protections in place, the new budget also ensures that the payments will grow based on inflation.

Vice President of Communications for NYRA, Patrick McKenna, commented that the new budget recognizes the importance of the horse racing industry for the state’s economy. McKenna stated:

“Overall fan interest and engagement with New York racing has never been stronger, and the consistent support expressed by lawmakers in Albany will only further the sport’s role as an engine for economic opportunity that creates jobs in every corner of the state.”

Bumping Up the Casino Licensing Timetable

With the new budget deal, the timetable for the state to begin providing the three final licenses for commercial venues moves up by a year. Around 10 years ago, the state approved legislation that allowed seven new casinos, four upstate and three downstate.

The upstate venues were first, and the downstate portion was not to be licensed until 2023. However, the COVID-19 pandemic damaged the state’s economy and lawmakers began to work towards pushing up the timetable so that the licensing could bring in funds immediately and then in the future.

Most feel that the Resorts World Aqueduct and the MGM Yonkers properties will receive licensing since they already offer a type of casino gaming. If they are approved, it would leave a single license to fight over. As developers want to get in on the NYC action, potential proposals are already on the table.

For a casino company to apply it must meet certain criteria including showing community support for the plan and paying $1 million to apply. Companies must also waive the right to sue to recover any fees paid in relation to a casino license such as application fees.