Another option to raise revenue for New York City's ailing transit system is suddenly on the table: A major expansion of gambling in the five boroughs, an idea that could lead to a new casino somewhere in the city.
A brand new casino, built from the ground up, could potentially raise the same amount of money as congestion pricing.
New York legalized gambling in 2013, but the only full casinos are upstate. Here in the city, there are video lottery terminals at the Aqueduct race track in Queens. But no new casinos will be sited until 2023 — unless, of course, the state changes the law.
"I think as long as the government has the power to do it — which it does — I think it would be an incredible idea," former Gov. David Paterson said. "First of all, there are chances to create 15,000 to 20,000 jobs."
Paterson was in Albany this week representing the Sands Corporation, which wants to build a new casino somewhere in the five boroughs. Supporters say a new casino would create construction jobs, hotel jobs, and generate hundreds millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he is dubious and distrusts the numbers on the promised windfall. "I am very skeptical about some casino deal put together by casino operators promising billions of dollars and everybody is happy," the governor said.
But Cuomo didn't slam the door shut on the idea either: "Everybody says that would be the golden franchise, right? If you had a casino in New York City."
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie met with representatives of the casino industry in Albany.
We asked him about the prospect of downstate gaming last week.
"As I've said many times before, I am not the biggest fan of gambling," Heastie said. "But that is a discussion I will have to have with the members."
Gambling was legalized in New York state on the notion that it would help the upstate economy. So far, the industry's projections on how those casinos would fare have fallen short of expectations. But New York City is a very different and a potentially much more lucrative market, with 60 million tourists visiting the city every year.
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