NY casino strikes gold

June 19, 2012 2:09 pm

The racino at the Aqueduct race track in Queens is taking in almost $2 million a day from gamblers. The average daily haul makes the New York casino the highest grossing slots joint in the country. (Since the racino is owned by Genting, much of the profits end up in Malaysia where the company is located.)

The Resorts World racino at Aqueduct generated $57.5 million in revenue in May, down slightly from the $59 million it made in March. However, the May figure surpassed the $55.4 million in revenue gamblers dumped in the slot machines at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. That made Resorts World the highest grossing casino in terms of slots revenue. That also means the casino is stripping nearly $2 million a day in wealth from the pockets of New Yorkers.

The racino’s success is due largely to its New York City location. It also underscores why Genting and other casino operators are salivating at the prospects of expanding or locating in New York. Resorts World currently only offers slot machines.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports the expansion to full-blown casinos, which would likely attract even more gamblers. That explains Genting’s huge financial support for a nonprofit with close ties to Cuomo. The New York Times recently reported that Genting gave $400,000 to the nonprofit advocacy group called the Committee to Save New York. While that figure may seem like a lot it is less than one day’s haul from the slots in Aqueduct.

In addition to Genting, unknown gambling interests gave another $2 million to the Committee to Save New York. The donations poured in just as Cuomo ramped up his support for legalizing casinos in New York. The idea for casinos reportedly came during a fundraiser for Cuomo in Westchester. (See the excellent Times editorial here calling for more sunlight on the gambling process.)

As a candidate for governor, Cuomo didn’t even mention casino as part of his policy initiatives. Now he is busy trying to change the state Constitution to allow casinos, a move that will generate increased social and economic costs across the state. The shift shows how the casino industry’s deep pockets are driving public policy in Albany.