New York Still Treading Modest Waters With What It Reaps From Sports Betting, All Gaming

The difference between recent gaming revenue reports for New York and New Jersey suggest how much the Empire State is missing.
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New York’s State’s four commercial casinos in November produced the same $2.6 million in sports betting gross gaming revenue that they did one month earlier — but the distribution of dollars shifted significantly.

While Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady remained the market leader at $1.1 million, del Lago Resort in the Rochester/Syracuse region jumped to $1 million, up almost 20% over its October performance.

With Tioga Downs — owned by Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural — mostly treading water at $0.4 million, the overall stagnation was produced by billion-dollar casino Resorts World Catskills dropping nearly 50% to $0.3 million.

The $2.6 million tally pales for a variety of reasons, of course, compared to New Jersey’s $58.5 million in October and $50.6 million in November.

The most obvious is the lack of a mobile sports betting option, which in November produced a U.S. record $931.6 million in handle, or amount wagered.

Getting a handle on NY’s numbers

New York’s gaming regulators do not provide a monthly handle figure. But New Jersey’s 2020 win percentage for 11 months is at 6.5%.

If New York operators had that same “hold” in November, then gamblers in the state wagered in the neighborhood of a mere $40 million.

That compares to the $60 million wagered at retail locations last month in New Jersey, which not only has nine casinos (all located in Atlantic City) offering sports betting but also the same product at the Meadowlands Racetrack, Monmouth Park, and Freehold Raceway.

Looking at the figures since July, the chasm grows even larger, with New Jersey sports betting operators taking in $223.3 million in revenue to a paltry $6.7 million in New York.

A minor part of that discrepancy is that New Jersey casinos reopened their doors on July 4 weekend, while operators in New York had to wait another two months to resume operations.

Tale of the tape in 2020

Over the past 11 months, New Jersey gambling operators (not including dollars wagered on horse races or lotteries) have produced revenue of $2.6 billion.

Online casino gaming produced about one-third of that figure, at $870.9 million in its seventh year of operations in the Garden State. New York has not recorded a penny from online casino gaming again in 2020.

Sports betting operators have racked up $332.1 million in revenue in New Jersey for the year, compared to just $8.6 million in the Empire State.

As for traditional brick-and-mortar operations, New Jersey casinos have rung up $1.4 billion in revenue. New York, on the other hand, can claim just $208.4 million.

The massive revenue discrepancy, part of which stems from roughly 20% of New Jersey’s sports betting revenue being won from “straying New Yorkers,” is not necessarily permanent.

Cuomo thawing on gaming expansion?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s throwaway line last week of “How about sports betting?” during a speech about how to address the state’s budget woes quickened a lot of hearts in the gaming industry — even though a closer, more realistic look rained on that parade.

But even if Cuomo cannot be won over to mobile sports betting or to online casino gaming, other gambling expansion could be afoot.

New York’s 2013 law, passed after a referendum approved by state residents, allows for up to three more commercial casinos — all in the greater New York City area — beginning with requests for proposals in 2023.

While that could wind up being new construction — as it was upstate at all but the existing horse racing track at Tioga Downs — most of the focus has been on allowing Yonkers Raceway and Aqueduct to similarly expand into “racinos” with full-scale casino table games and sports betting.

Supporters have suggested $500 million one-time licensing fees at each site, a figure that doesn’t seem out of line given the likely annual revenue involved.

But Cuomo said in February of a political push to cancel the moratorium, “These are complicated issues, and I am skeptical about quick, knee-jerk reactions to doing something like that, especially if it’s conditioned on money.”

Cuomo said last year, “I’m not a big fan of the gaming industry,” adding, “Obviously more people lose in gambling than win, and if there’s not a significant economic benefit to the state, or a region of the state, then I would rather not do it.”

Cuomo’s attitude seems to mirror that of New York City and state officials in the 1970s regarding stadium construction, which led to New Jersey poaching the Giants football team by building it a new stadium in the Meadowlands in 1976. That was followed by a long, serious flirtation with the Yankees baseball team about doing the same.

Another Meadowlands rival for NY?

But what happens if New Jersey elects to construct a casino at the Meadowlands Sports Complex — a notion championed again recently by the region’s state senator, Paul Sarlo, last week on the Gamble On podcast?

Gural, a grizzled veteran of inside-Albany state politics, repeatedly has said that powerful interests including the hotel lobby will never allow for a dazzling new casino and resort to siphon away customers.

But a casino in the Meadowlands, which even Sarlo estimates to be at least five years from fruition, could test the limits of those special interests.

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