The Saratogian newspaper has reported that six New York racino operators, including four harness tracks, on Wednesday called on state officials to cancel plans for a Catskills Indian casino, saying it might kill the state’s racing industry. Shortly before leaving office on Dec. 31, former New York Gov. David Paterson announced a compact with a Wisconsin-based tribe to open a full-scale casino in the Catskills, close to Monticello Raceway and within a couple of hours of Yonkers and Saratoga.
An Indian casino would divert $51 million from New York’s racing industry, the letter said.
"The Indian casino would result in the near-certain closure of the Monticello racino, 10 minutes from the proposed site, and take away higher-end and weekend customers from Yonkers, Resorts World New York (Aqueduct) and Saratoga racinos," the letter said. "By our calculation, this will lessen the state tax revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars. Coming on top of the closure of New York City OTB, the opening of the Sullivan County casino may well spell the end of the New York horse racing industry."
The Saratogian story said Jeff Gural, who owns Vernon and Tioga Downs, "said he didn't sign the letter because he didn’t want to publicly criticize Paterson or U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who supports the Indian proposal. But he said he’s "totally opposed" to the idea."
The story noted that Indian casinos pay far less taxes to the state, 18 to 25 percent, depending on the site, versus from 60 to 70 percent for VLTs, racino operators said. This not only reduces state revenues, but puts the Indian casino at an advantage by giving it more money to offer free rooms, food and beverage, making it impossible for racinos to compete, the letter said. In Florida, the Seminole Indians pay the state a hefty amount of money each year per a negotiated agreement.
Click here to read the entire story in the Saratogian.