New Yorkers Want More Gaming, Poll Shows

Most New York voters say they favor full-scale gaming at the two New York City-area racinos, including Resorts World NYC (l.) and Empire City Yonkers. Support for mobile betting also was high.

A new poll shows voters in pandemic-stricken New York may be getting behind the idea of full-scale casino gambling in New York City.

Global Strategy Group, a nationally known public relations and research firm, conducted the survey of 800 registered voters on behalf of the metropolitan area’s two racinos, Resorts World New York City, located at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, and Empire City Yonkers, owned by Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International.

Subjects were selected from communities surrounding the two properties, and 70 percent of them said they favor permitting the racinos, currently limited to video lottery terminals and electronic table games, to expand with live tables and house-banked slot machines.

Only 16 percent of respondents opposed the idea, and the rest were undecided.

But that changed significantly when the state’s Covid-related fiscal crisis was added to the equation.

“The billion dollars in license fees and millions per year in additional tax revenue and protection of jobs in hard-hit communities in Yonkers and the Bronx effectively persuade undecided voters to tilt toward supporting the proposal,” according to Global Strategies’ analysis of the results.

“Once voters hear about these benefits, undecided voters move in favor of the proposal and support climbs to 83 percent statewide.”

Bringing casinos to New York City has been a subject of heated discussion ever since the state’s voters back in 2013 approved the licensing of up to seven privately owned casinos. Under the legislation that followed, four licenses were allocated upstate and the remaining three, presumably slated for New York City, put on hold until 2023.

Lobbying to scrap the moratorium has been ongoing ever since, but without the backing of Governor Andrew Cuomo. The massive costs of the pandemic could change that, however, and the pressure to award the licenses sooner rather than later may prove politically and fiscally irresistible.

A recent study completed for the New York Gaming Commission estimates that granting full-scale gaming to the Aqueduct and Yonkers racinos and licensing a new casino in Manhattan could generate between $420 million and $630 million in new tax revenue for the state.

The Global Strategy Group respondents initially were given a choice of methods for closing a state budget deficit that could hit $14.5 billion this year alone. Revenue from expanded gambling came out on top at 56 percent, while only 7 percent chose tax increases and 6 percent favored spending cuts.

A large number of respondents, however, upwards of one-third, passed on the question.

Expanding sports betting to the internet is another hot-button issue. Currently, it’s limited to in-person wagering at the upstate casinos, one of which is owned by Resorts World, and the state’s Indian casinos, and Cuomo had opposed moving beyond that absent an amendment to the state Constitution.

He’s since relented in the face of the Covid crisis, but he favors a single lottery-style operator, a position that has the administration at odds with mobile betting advocates in the Legislature who favor an open market populated by multiple licensees.

Asked about whether mobile sports betting should be operated just by the four upstate commercial casinos or extended to Resorts World Aqueduct and Empire City, 51 percent of the Global Strategy poll respondents said they favored including the two racinos, 21 percent said they favored including only the upstate casinos and 28 percent stated no preference.