Tragedy finally makes NY legislature willing to gamble

Oct 30, 2001 1:53 AM


Gaming expansion across New York, long planned for often stalled in the State Legislature, looks to finally be heading to fruition.

The New York Senate approved a wide-ranging gambling bill, which would increase the number of Indian-run casinos from two to eight and spread gaming into the Catskills.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said the package could be worth $1 billion annually to the state within the next three to four years.

“We’re desperate for cash,” Bruno said. “Our revenues have fallen off a cliff.”

The Republican-controlled Senate approved the bill, 52-8. The measure now goes to the state Assembly.

The gaming bill looks to finally have a chance to pass due to the events of Sept. 11. Gov. George Pataki has said that New York could lose up to $9 billion in revenue over the next 18 months because of the terrorist attacks.

The state currently has an annual budget of $83 billion.

Bruno and the Legislature’s other majority leader, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, both say they do not like gambling.

“If it wasn’t for the catastrophe of Sept. 11, we wouldn’t be contemplating what we are doing,” Bruno said.

Casinos could not be established in New York City under the legislation. The Catskills are approximately 90 miles northwest of Manhattan.

At last, Niagara

After more than three years of obstacles, construction began on the Murray Hill site of the future permanent Casino Niagara and Hyatt hotel.

The casino and hotel are scheduled to open in the spring of 2004 as the focal point for the Niagara Falls Casino/Gateway project. Officials hope this will double the number of tourists visiting the Falls from $14 million to $28 million annually.

The complex will include a 368-room Hyatt hotel and attached casino containing 3,000 slot machines, 150 table games, extensive meeting and exhibition space, a world-class retail facility, restaurants and entertainment venues.

The Gateway project will include off-site attractions such as River Country theme park and a 12,000-seat amphitheater along with a monorail connecting the venues with downtown Niagara Falls.

NCAA keeps pressing

The NCAA Management Council this week approved a proposal that would prohibit certification of an event if it is held where legal sports wagering is permitted.

In other words, Nevada casinos with sports books.

The proposal will be reviewed by the NCAA board of directors at its meeting this Thursday in Indianapolis.  The plan follows a controversy this summer in which three basketball tournaments scheduled to be held this fall at Paris Las Vegas were transferred to a city high school.

It has only been since last February since the state of Nevada allowed betting on in-state teams such as Nevada-Las Vegas and the University of Nevada-Reno in college basketball and football.

Legislation has been stalled in Washington trying to make all college sports betting illegal across the United States.

Argosy endures

Argosy’s casinos have managed to weather the events of Sept. 11 as the far as the cashless slot machine industry is concerned.

The company reported third-quarter earnings of nearly $17.2 million, up 31 percent from the same quarter last year. Revenue for the quarter was $214.7 million, up 27 percent from the prior year’s quarter.

Argosy, based in Illinois, operates riverboat casinos in Alton, Riverside, Mo., Baton Rouge, La., Sioux City, Iowa, Juliet, Ill, and Lawrenceburg, Ind.

Rivage trims staff

The MGM Mirage’s Beau Rivage hotel-casino on the Mississippi Gulf Coast has laid off 340 workers, or 11 percent of its work force.

Boyd Gaming Corp.’s Treasure Chest casino in Louisiana was also forced to cut 80 of its 1,200 employees due to financial concerns.

“We were seeing a slowdown, not so much on the weekends, but on the weekdays,” said Rob Stillwell, a spokesman for Boyd Gaming. The riverboat is located in suburban New Orleans.

“When the business cycle returns to normal, those will be the people we would want to call back,” Stillwell said.

Oregon moves ahead

The state of Oregon will continue with its plans to expand Wildhorse Resort and Casino despite a short-term dip in gaming revenues.

The casino will still remain the largest income generator for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation next year. Gaming revenue distribution will total around $1,000 for each tribal member.

Under the proposed tribal budget, the 2001 gaming revenue will fund most tribal government operations, public affairs and youth and educational programs. The Confederated Tribes are expected to finalize the budget by mid-November.