Mayor Hopeful Andrew Yang Backs Casinos Again

New York mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang has criticized the existing gambling network in the city, proposing a new casino development project on Governor’s Island instead.

Andrew Yang Outlines Plans for New Casino Project

Mayor contender and former anti-gambling advocate Andrew Yang has suggested a new casino development on Governor’s Island after criticizing the parlors in his book.

 “I’ve visited some of them on a weeknight and they are not encouraging places. Most of the people there do not seem like they should be gambling,” Yang wrote.

Similar to other gambling opponents, Yang has shared surprise to see cities such as Baltimore, St. Louis, New Orleans, Detroit, and Cleveland have casinos in central areas. His idea is that gambling affects low-income citizens disproportionately.

Yang’s book “The War on Normal People” was published during his underdog presidential bid. In the meantime, sports betting in the state has been gaining momentum despite a looming monopoly championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo who has repeatedly maintained the argument that the Empire State should have exclusivity over gambling expansion at the expanse of private stakeholders.

Seeking the NYC Mayoralty, Seeking Revenue

Now, moving on with his mayoral bid, Yang is singing a new song. He told “The Breakfast Club” in a recent radio interview that casinos would pour an enormous flow of cash in New York, which could act as the city’s recovery engine.  In a recent tweet he pressed to seize every revenue opportunity where possible.

Campaign spokesperson Edwin Molina defended the idea under the notion that in order to revive the Big Apple, an all-round-approach would be necessary. Bidding on a New York casino should be done before 2023.

A casino opening in New York would pour some $1.5 billion in licensing fees and another $900 in annual tax revenue.

Right now New York City has one electronic table games casino hall near Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. A live card games hall cannot be opened until 2023 as per state law.

Yang has previously been reprimanded for his changing views on issues such as circumcision and being disrespectful on different occasions.  Meanwhile, New York can’t seem to rely on casino exclusivity payments from the Seneca Nation.

Seneca Exclusivity Payments Dispute Still Ongoing

From 2002 to 2017 the Seneca casinos generated $1.4 billion in payments to the state but suspended payments after that under the claim the gaming compact no longer required revenue sharing after the 14th year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s prospective state budget for next year includes $450 million in shared revenue from the Seneca Nation counted as being received end of the current fiscal year.

New York State and the Senecas have been trying to settle this dispute over the last four years. A three-person arbitration panel ruled against the Senecas in January 2019, saying the nation owed the state $255 million in payments.

Senecas Insist They Were Following the Letter of the Law

Initially the compact was accepted in 2002 but at the end of 2006, when it was automatically renewed, the Seneca Nation ceased payment flow stating the renewal made no mention of this requirement.

The Seneca Nation president at the time, Rickey Armstrong Sr defined the arbitration decision as an amendment of the already agreed –upon terms.

Nevertheless, the arbitrators concluded that applicable laws were clear “that the compact was continued on the same terms and conditions that were in place immediately prior to the expiration of the compact’s initial term …”

Currently the case is still dragging along in federal court.  In January the Senecas made a statement they were willing to discuss a resolution and negotiate a new compact for 2023.

However, the current agreement was favorable for the state and municipalities as they shared 25% of slot machine revenue from Seneca’s three casinos in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca. In return, the Seneca casinos were the exclusive provider of “class III gaming” west of State route 14.

If the Nation stands by its obligations now, future negotiations will be much easier.

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