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Reporter's Notebook

August 17, 2013

Following the money in the casino debate

Get ready for a barrage of television and radio ads touting the alleged benefits of opening four Las Vegas-style casinos in New York.

The people and entities coughing up the money to advocate for more gambling in New York will be gaming industry insiders who will personally benefit if New York voters approve a constitutional amendment in November that would allow non-Indian casino gaming.

The people and entities coughing up money to convince voters to reject the proposal will be those with a vested interest in competing casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut.

In other words, those with a vested interest one side or the other will be lighting up the airwaves while the rest of us would be wise to stock up on DVDs until the question is settled.

With New York already profiting immensely from its aggressive promotion of lottery games, we wondered if the Cuomo administration and the state Gaming Commission have given any thought to whether opening a four-pack of casinos would impact the revenue derived from the current lottery operations, which includes racino action.

Our hunch that Lottery revenues might sag when (and if) new casinos open in the state has been “disproven,” based on the increase in the revenue from the “traditional” lottery games that has occurred since the racinos came online, a Gaming Commission spokeswoman said in response to our queries.

“The existence of Video Lottery Terminals at nine facilities across New York State has had minimal impact on traditional lottery sales in the state,” the spokeswoman, Christy Calicchia, said in an email. “In fact, there has been a 31.9 percent increase in traditional Lottery sales since the nine facilities with VLTs (video lottery terminals) opened.”

It’s an important question because the New York lottery drove just shy of $2.9 billion in aid to education in fiscal 2012.

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