The Assemblyman from Mohawk Harbor is at it again. Phil Steck (ostensibly, D-Colonie) is trying to sneak in a last-minute, end of Session treat for his No. 1 Constituent, Rivers Casino. The Editorial board at the Schenectady Gazette rightly wants to know:
[W]hy — as state lawmakers scramble to pass bills during the final days of the 2019 legislative session — is anyone in Albany focused on providing tax breaks and cost savings for casinos?
[See “Editorial: Put taxpayers, horse industry above casinos: Rivers casino is making plenty of money. It doesn’t need more breaks” (Daily Gazette, June 19, 2019); also, see “Steck proposes casino funding adjustment” (by Pete DeMola, Gazette, June 18, 2019); Sara Foss’ Gazette column, “Casino proposal a bad idea” (June 20, 2019).]
As the Editorial explains:
One bill (A8400/S6562) sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Steck would allow full-service casinos like Rivers in Schenectady to pay half what they currently pay to support the state’s horse-racing industry.
Racinos like Saratoga Casino Hotel, which offer both video gaming and harness racing, would pay the other half
Furthermore, the Gazette points out:
That 100 percent payment was put into the agreement because the new casinos were expected to draw significant business away from the existing racinos, and by extension take money out of the horse-racing industry. And they have.
To further punish the racino by forcing it to absorb half the horse-racing obligations, in addition to the revenue losses to the casino, adds insult to injury.
This tax-break ploy at the expense of racinos such as the one in Saratoga is especially cynical at a time when Rivers Casino has consistently increasing slots revenue and is about to be the only casino in the state offering both sports betting and live horse racing (at track odds, too). update (June 21, 2019): By the way, Mr. Steck made this proposal to help poor little Rivers Casino at a time when the Schenectady Casino was having its second-best week for Gross Gaming Revenue since its rush of opening hoopla in March of 2017. Its GGR for the week ending 06/16/2019 was $3,535,273.
- Steck and Rivers Casino made the same lame arguments just three months ago, trying to reduce the gaming tax Rivers would have to pay on slots revenue. For our complete reply, see: “Rush Street must think we are all pretty stupid” (March 29, 2019). Their excuses include the whiny refrain that MGM Springfield is unfair competition, because of its lower slots tax rate. They keep forgetting that:
- (1) MGM Springfield pays the City of Springfield $25 million a year over its State gaming tax obligations under a Host City Agreement, whereas our Mayor never asked for such an agreement and we get nothing extra;
- (2) Rivers Casino has had over a 10% increase in gaming revenue since MGM Springfield opened last year; and
- (3) MGM Springfield actually looks and feels like a destination casino, which surely gives it a competitive edge with customers willing to travel. Thanks to our Mayor and Planning Commission (and Metroplex) refusing-fearing to demand better, Rush Street Gaming and Galeshi Group have given us a homely, mediocre regional casino, which will not attract the tourists we had hoped for.
. . followup (January 27, 2021): The issue of reducing the gaming tax rate Rivers Casino must pay on slots revenue is back in the news and threatening Schenectady’s finances. See “Rivers Casino in Schenectady could benefit significantly from Cuomo proposals” Daily Gazette, John Cropley, Jan. 23, 2021). And see our posting, “why not give Rivers Casino a tax break” (Jan. 27, 2021).