Legislators in the state of New York are debating whether it’s a good idea to offer online poker as an option to online gamblers. This is turning out to be quite a contentious issue since there are fears that the state’s gambling industry, especially land-based, have reached saturation point. As a matter of fact, Oneida County’s iconic Vernon Downs racino is under pressure to close down because of lower revenues.
A Crowded Marketplace
The gambling industry in New York is very crowded as of now, with three brand new non-Indian full-service casinos, nine racinos, and eleven gambling establishments owned by different Native American tribes. The launch of the three newly opened casinos required a constitutional amendment which happened in 2013. There gambling industry in New York also has to deal with competition from casinos located in different parts of the Northeast and also Canada.
Increased Gambling Options
New Yorkers with a taste for gambling have been given plenty of options now that fantasy sports betting has recently been permitted. As a matter of fact, there were concerted efforts driven by a powerful lobby including the likes of NFL great Jim Kelly. The lottery business is also very lucrative, with Quick Draw, Powerball and scratch-off tickets managing to increase sales volumes steadily ever since these government-regulated lottery games were introduced half a century ago.
Call to Slow Down Expansion
Not everyone is happy about the way in which the gambling industry has expanded. Vernon Downs investor Gary Greenberg went so far as to say that the state did not require any additional gambling since there were already many exciting options available to choose from. The owner of the track, Jeff Gural, has said that he loses more than $150,000 on a monthly basis.
Gural went on to say that he intends to close the track and its racino in addition to a hotel and restaurants that made up the Vernon Downs complex. He has requested to be able to retain a higher percentage of video lottery terminal revenues in order to compensate for his losses. However, it’s unlikely that this will be permitted since the gaming revenues are necessary to support public schools in the state.
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the state’s Assembly Gaming Committee expects Gural to adopt the committee’s counterproposal to reduce the complex’s administrative fees. Pretlow also agrees that Vernon Downs has to deal with more than its fair share of competition, especially from Turning Stone, the Oneida casino.
A Complex Situation
Not everyone agrees that the gaming industry has experienced saturation. Bennett Liebman, a former adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the gaming industry said that while Vernon Downs admittedly faced problems because of its proximity to large casinos, he doesn’t feel that the industry has reached saturation point at the present. In fact, he went on to say that it is quite difficult to predict what will happen in the future in the state. Lee Park, the Gaming Commission spokesman had a similar view, saying that while the regulator couldn’t opine on policy, he felt that the market was large enough to support expanded gaming operations.
Online Poker Faces Multiple Obstacles
Assemblyman Petrow is one of the backers of the online poker legislation which was authored by Republican Sen. John Bonacic. The rationale behind the law is that legalized poker will protect the interests of gamblers who now visit unregulated sites for lack of better options, while also ensuring that the state earns additional revenue for its educational programmes. The powerful lobby that opposes its legalisation will no doubt argue that online poker isn’t a game of skill and is nothing but a game of chance. It remains to be seen which faction will prevail in the months to come.