New York is looking to expand its gambling market at a time when many gaming analysts say the northeastern United States is facing market saturation. Four Atlantic City casinos have folded so far this year, and those that have survived have had to contend with the 26 other casinos that have opened in the last decade alone. As states like New York attempt to lure away the gaming dollars pouring into the coffers of neighboring governments, and revenues are spread thinner across the board, states have seen their fortunes decline despite an overall increase in gambling.
It remains to be seen just how successful (or disastrous) the plan to allow up to four new full-gaming casinos in three regions of Upstate New York will be, but the 16 applicants for licenses know as well as anyone that plunking down a giant casino just about anywhere is not the safe bet it used to be. Market conditions in each region must be analyzed in order to gauge the optimal size of each facility, and developers are searching for the winning combination of amenities and novel attractions that will draw crowds to their resort. Despite evidence showing that given a choice between two casinos, gamblers will pick the closer one, most of the bidders are trying to sell comprehensive vacation destinations—somewhere people would also want to travel to for reasons other than, or perhaps in spite of, gambling.
The language of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act focused on revitalizing local economies—and for some developers that is indeed the goal. Others think the winning bids will be the ones that generate the most revenue for the state, and have suggested casinos so large and close to New York City that some of the more modest upstate proposals probably could not survive their existence.
Despite their differences, the bidders share some common threads. They all emphasize extensive partnerships with their communities. (The idea is, ostensibly, to employ local workers and construction materials, promote businesses and generally encourage casino-goers to explore the surrounding region.) All of them claim to take the treatment of gambling addiction seriously, and promise to create environments that will discourage problem behavior. They promote their wage packages and job benefits, and to varying degrees the utilization of minority- and women-owned businesses and workers.
In the following pages, City & State takes a look at what sets the 16 proposals apart. It should be noted that all projected gaming revenues and job numbers were provided by the developers, often stemming from the calculations of independent gaming consultants. Because of the tenuous nature of such calculations, the included projections are also fairly narrow in scope, and do not take into account the full economic impact each operator claims their casino would have on the region and the state.