In New York, Commercial Gaming Still in Limbo

New York State is in the final phase of its return to business. Commercial casinos and racinos (Resorts World New York City at left), which have been closed since mid-March, are supposed to be part of the broad reopenings—or will be, eventually.

New York’s commercial casinos and racinos are not among the businesses that have begun reopening across the state.

Unlike their tribal competitors, which are not bound by state law and have been gradually resuming operations since mid-May, the 12 casinos and racinos are still waiting for the go-ahead from the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo to get back in the fray.

According to former Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy, who is advising Cuomo on the reopenings, “Areas such as the malls, gyms, movie theaters, casinos, will not open on the first day of Phase Four, but will open at some time during Phase 4,” as the current round is known.

Phase 4, however, has no specific timeframe, unlike the two-week periods for the previous three phases.

“Phase 4 could last two months, it could last three months,” Duffy said. “There won’t be a Phase Five, so it’s going to be a gradation of certain activities just based on some of the research and feedback that the state is getting. And, really, it’s the measurement of these activities, region by region.”

The Oneida Indian Nation’s three central-state casinos have been open on a limited basis since June 10. The Seneca Nation’s three casinos Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca began reopening in phases on June 18. The small Lakeside Gaming slots venue run by the Cayuga Nation in Union Springs has been open since mid-May.

Meanwhile, the commercial operators, which have been closed since mid-March, have no choice but to wait.

“We had hoped to be able to open by July 4,” said Jeff Gural, who owns Tioga Downs Casino Resort, a full-scale gaming facility near Binghamton in the Southern Tier, and the racino at the Vernon Downs harness track in Oneida County east of Syracuse. “There are people who are waiting for the casinos to reopen. I know the governor is prioritizing health and safety, not economics, and I applaud that, but it makes sense to reopen as soon as we can.”

It’s not just the tribal competition in New York that concerns him, he told the Syracuse Post-Standard.

“People who like to gamble are going to go to the casinos they can find. That’s their mentality. So they’re going to travel to these places in other states, and perhaps they’re exposed (to the virus). Then they come back here. We don’t have a big problem here, and we’re going to follow all the guidelines issued by New York state. But we don’t need people bringing back anything from Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) or Atlantic City.”

At del Lago Resort & Casino in the Finger Lakes region, General Manager Lance Young told the Post-Standard his property will be prepared when the big day finally arrives.

“Del Lago Resort & Casino continues to plan for a safe reopening that protects our employees, customers and the general public. We have developed a comprehensive reopening plan, with input from various stakeholders, that meets or exceeds CDC and OSHA guidelines. We are ready to reopen upon state approval.”