5:44 pm Sep. 4, 2012
Governor Andrew Cuomo considers the system of racinos in New York to be a "scandal."
But ahead of an expected scramble for casino licences, the racinos are making a public case for themselves with a statewide ad campaign that starts Wednesday.
Just in time for the school year to begin, an ad, sponsored by the New York Gaming Association, argues for the importance of racinos to New York State education.
The association represents the state's nine racinos (including Genting's at Aqueduct), which combine horseracing with digital slot machines.
"What do racetrack casinos mean for New York?" asks a woman's voice, as images of children at school flash on the screen. "Reliable funding for our schools, which means lower property taxes for all of us."
"Next year alone, they'll provide $1 billion for our schools, equaling the salaries of nearly 13,000 teachers." she adds. "A reliable partner for education, just as our kids head back to school."
Starting tomorrow, and during the next two weeks, the ad will will air in eight markets, including Albany, Buffalo, Utica, Binghamton, Syracuse, Rochester and New York City, according to Gary Greenberg, a minority owner of Vernon Downs Hotel and Casino, a NYGA member.
"The public needs to know how much racinos have meant to New York State, so the correct choice can be made to how many and where non-Indian casinos will be located," said Greenberg, who showed the ad to Capital.
The bidding for casino licences wouldn't begin until late next year at the earliest.
This year, New York State's legislature endorsed an amendment calling for the legalization of casino gambling, the first part of the three-step process required to change the constitution. Next session, the legislature must do a repeat endorsement, after which state voters must approve it in a referendum.
The amendment would allow the state to issue up to seven casino gambling franchises, and the bidding would occur after that. Cuomo has promised a transparent process, one that may include companies that have had no involvement in New York's existing racinos.
In June, as a proposed deal with Genting to build a convention center at Aqueduct fell apart, the governor said, "The current racino situation in this state is a scandal, in my opinion."
His administration has since expressed a preference for the "biggest developers in the world," indicating that they would have a better shot than the mostly smaller racino operators in the bidding for casino licences.
The racinos are clearly not ready to give up the fight.
The ad campaign is a "multi-million" one, according to another NYGA member.
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