Casinos Allowed to Reopen in New York

Casinos in New York are back open for business for the first time in over six months. Governor Andrew Cuomo permitted the casinos to reopen their doors on Wednesday, September 9, as the state seems to finally have the coronavirus under control.

Along with casinos, malls were also allowed to reopen on September 9, and both industries expect to see a vast jolt in revenue. Even though these properties can once again start serving customers, there are strict health and safety protocols that have been put in place.

Casinos are only allowed to operate at 25 percent of their regular capacity, while shopping malls can work at 50 percent. Even under these new measures, casino leaders were excited about the opportunity to open their doors.

Governor Cuomo shut down all nonessential businesses in March as the state was seeing a massive surge in positive cases. The governor has gradually allowed some of these businesses to reopen, but he has kept the casino industry shut down.

Other states had seen a second surge of positive cases when casinos were allowed to reopen, and New York was trying to prevent the same thing from happening. State health officials were in favor of keeping the casinos closed until just a few weeks ago.

All of the tribal casinos in the state had already opened before Wednesday since they do not have to follow state rules and regulations. There are four commercial casinos in New York and eight video-only venues that the restrictions apply to.

Besides the standard health and safety protocols, Cuomo requires that all casinos install enhanced air filtration systems. Casinos and video-only properties must also hire additional staff to help enforce the new protocols. 

Not All Properties Ready

Even though casinos have been waiting for Cuomo to announce a reopening date, not all of the properties were ready to open on September 9. Some casinos or video-only properties struggled to get employees back and trained on all of the new health and safety protocols.

Seven of the 12 properties announced that they would reopen on Wednesday, including Resorts World Catskills and Tioga Downs. These are two of the biggest casinos in the state, and they are set to bring in a ton of revenue.

Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway announced that they were waiting until September 21 to reopen, and a few other locations had not yet announced an opening date. The hope is that all of the properties will remain open for the remainder of 2020. 

Major Budget Deficit Facing State

New York, like other states, has been struck financially by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The reopening of casinos will provide some relief, but most of the money that has been lost cannot be made up.

The state estimates that it has lost more than $600 million in tax revenue due to casinos’ closure during the fiscal year that started on April 1. The state will be forced to borrow money from the general fund to cover the lost revenue.

Outside of the lost tax revenue, the state is still facing a $14.5 billion shortfall in the budget, and that money cannot be made up from the casinos. Programs and some jobs will have to be cut to help the state recover from this.

Education is one of the most significant areas that will be affected as close to 80 percent of gaming tax revenue goes to that sector. The other 20 percent of gaming tax revenue is sent to municipalities throughout the state. 

Rebecca Kont
Rebecca Kont

Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.