70 percent of NY voters support casino expansion amid COVID, poll shows

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New Yorkers grappling with the coronavirus pandemic are warming up to expanding casino gambling as an economic dig-out alternative to tax hikes and spending cuts.

Seventy percent of the state’s registered voters support converting the Resorts World Aqueduct and MGM Empire City Yonkers video slots parlors into full-scale casinos, a Global Strategy Group survey financed by the two racino parlors found.

Only 16 percent of the respondents were opposed, with the rest undecided.

Two-thirds of voters in communities surrounding Resorts Worlds Aqueduct and 73 percent around the Yonkers racino back expanding gambling at the gambling parlors to include table games, according to the poll.

Resorts World-Aqueduct appears to be prepping for the legal right to expand gambling. The firm recently announced that its building a hotel next to its Aqueduct video slots parlor.

Emerging from the pandemic will be key for casinos to become cash cows again. Revenues were down $600 million last year because of closures and safety restrictions as the state sought to contain the COVID-outbreak.

Support for expanded casino gambling skyrockets when voters are told about New York’s fiscal crisis and how much revenue the casinos could generate.

“The billion dollars in license fees and millions per year in additional tax revenue and protection of jobs in hard-hit communities in Yonkers and the Bronx effectively
persuade undecided voters to tilt toward supporting the proposal,” the poll analysis conducted by Global Strategies said.

“Once voters hear about these benefits, undecided voters move in favor of the proposal and support climbs to 83 percent statewide,” the analysis said.

In general., voters were asked how they preferred closing a potential $14.5 billion state budget deficit — 56 percent said revenue from gambling was the best option, dwarfing the seven percent who preferred tax increases and six percent favoring spending cuts. One third of respondents were undecided.

Meanwhile, respondents were asked about whether mobile sports should be operated just by the four upstate casinos or also through Resorts World-Aqueduct and Empire City-Yonkers gambling parlors. One-time skeptic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed legalizing mobile sports betting to generate revenue to deal the state’s fiscal crisis.

Fifty one percent of voters said mobile sports betting should be operated through the Aqueduct and Yonkers slots parlors as opposed to 21 percent who said just through the four upstate casinos, with the rest not stating a preference.

Debate over the expansion of casino gambling has heated amid the pandemic.

Under current law, New York can authorize three more full-scale casinos in 2023.

In his budget plan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is already entertaining preliminary proposals from prospect casino bidders.

Aside from converting the Aqueduct and the Yonkers racinos into full-scale casinos, Vornado Realty Trust proposed building a casino at its property near Herald Square.

Resorts World-Aqueduct has called itself New York’s largest taxpayer, reporting last December it generated more than $3 billion for New York’s Lottery education fund since opening in 2011.

A recent study conducted by the New York State Gaming Commission estimated that opening three new downstate casinos — which include the conversions of Aqueduct and Yonkers and opening a new casino in Manhattan — could generate between $420 million and $630 million in revenues per year.

The Global Strategy private poll of 800 registered voters was conducted from Dec. 4 to Dec. 14.

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