A new deal for new local casinos


Marc Murdoch '14, News and Features Editor

New York could see an increase in revenue within the next few years if lawmakers agree to a proposal this week to bring up to four new casinos to the upstate region. These additional structures could constitute approximately $44 million per year to counties in central New York, according to the state budget office.

Five Indian-owned casinos already operate within the state, and nine slot machine casinos [dubbed “racinos” for their proximity to racetracks] are scattered throughout the state, none offering live card dealing. This legislation, which could begin to be ratified Thursday if passed, would add casinos to the Southern Tier, the Capital Region and the Catskills.

Onondaga would not receive a new casino under the legislation due to an exclusivity agreement with the Indian nations already running casinos, but funds from the casinos would still be shared to the county, at about $2.5 million per year. The funds would be collected through taxes on the casinos, including the ones that already exist.

Onondaga Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon told the Syracuse Media Group that he is not personally in favor of supporting the government through gambling funds, but the increased revenue would certainly help the region.

Half of the revenue from the casinos would go into school districts throughout the counties of central and upstate New York. The other half would be paid to the Oneida nation in concordance with a deal made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2010.

However, the viability of these funds has come under debate ever since the deal has been approved by the state Legislature, the Oneida nation, and Madison and Oneida counties.

The Cayuga Nation and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community [owning land in Sullivan and Madison Counties] are opposing the legislation saying that the deal infringes on their land rights.

Several officials as well are skeptical that they will never see the money. Oswego County Administrator Philip Church has omitted the proposed $660,000 to his budget in case the legislation does not pass, according to syracuse.com.

“So the state giving us [casino money] only covers half of what they’re forcing us to spend in addition,” Church said. “It’s not really a windfall by any stretch.”

The current estimated cost of building a casino in the Catskills region could be as high as $560 million to add thousands of local jobs. However, this cost is more than 10 times the income expected in the first year once the casino is built, according to the New York Times. There have been no released budgetary proposals for casinos in other counties.

Others have voiced complaints that the 10,000 new jobs will be very specialized and have a limited pool of applicants ready if the legislation passes and the casinos are built. There are also doubts about how much taxation will really contribute to the state and county budgets.

For students at Le Moyne, the addition of casinos would not only mean a new hobby for some, it could also provide part-time jobs for students at the college and at home. The increased funding to schools as well could assist students in achieving an education before not possible.