New York Governor Presents Budget Plan That Includes NYC Casinos

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday proposed a $216-billion budget for the state. It would pay bonuses to health care workers and increase funding for schools. It would also do something thought impossible, at least in the near term, under New York’s former governor, Andrew Cuomo. The budget would open New York City to three casinos.

New York Budget Includes NYC Casinos

Hochul’s spending plan comes as the state is in a relatively strong financial position. This is due to a large influx of federal aid and stronger-than-expected tax revenue that has left New York with a projected $5-billion surplus.

Hochul was able, thanks to the cash infusion, to present what she calls a balanced budget that will continue that way for five years. This is rare in Albany, where projected deficits are typical.

New Yorkers approved a 2013 amendment to the state constitution to allow seven full-fledged private casinos throughout the state. However, a companion state law prohibited those casinos from being located in New York City or surrounding counties until 2023. This was unless casino operators were willing to pay a heavy penalty to upstate casino owners.

Hochul would like to accelerate that process. Her budget includes a plan to end the New York City casino moratorium early and eliminate the financial penalty. Hochul’s administration could then begin to seek bids for its last three casino licenses this year.

Targets Still to be Determined

Hochul’s budget director Robert Mujica noted that the proposal and the law do not specify where casinos must be located. He acknowledged that most bidders are focusing on New York City.

He stated that the three licenses would likely be concentrated in the downstate, but there is no restriction there. “If we receive a bid that is dramatic, we won’t exclude them.”

Gambling interests have long prized the nation’s largest marketplace. The state Gaming Commission received 30 responses to its call for interest last year. This included major casino players such as Wynn Resorts or Las Vegas Sands.

Hochul Stands By Budget as Elections Come Later This Year

Hochul stated that this was a unique opportunity to make purposeful, thoughtful investments in our state. She delivered the virtual budget address from Capitol’s Red Room. “And that’s exactly what my budget will accomplish.”

Hochul’s budget did not include funds to replenish funds for two state-run programs that are basically out of money. The Excluded Workers Fund provided grants to undocumented immigrant workers who were ineligible to receive unemployment benefits. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program covered up to 15 months of back rent to those financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hochul and the state legislators will spend the next 10 weeks negotiating details of the plan, in the hopes of putting together a budget by April 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year.

Although the state budget is not supposed to be a political document, it can be seen through that lens. Hochul and the 213 state legislators are up for election in 2022.

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