For the first time in almost six months, casinos in the Empire State began operating again on Wednesday. However, some gaming properties say they need more time.
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced he was permitting the reopening of casinos and malls on Sept. 9. The order came with strict safety measures in place and with a limit on the number of people allowed inside. Casinos could open at 25 percent capacity, while malls could operate at 50 percent capacity.
In mid-March, the governor ordered casinos and other “nonessential” businesses to close as coronavirus infections soared statewide. He gradually began allowing some businesses to reopen but kept casinos shuttered. State health officials were concerned that crowds gathering in indoor spaces such as casinos could spread the coronavirus.
New York state is home to four commercial casinos and eight video-only venues, such as racetracks. Combined, these properties employ about 10,000 people. Tribal casinos do not fall under state jurisdiction and had already opened by Wednesday.
In announcing the reopenings, Cuomo placed other restrictions on casinos. He mandated they install enhanced air filtration systems and put additional staff in place to monitor the number of people in the building.
He also said table games would not be allowed until physical barriers were installed to keep the players separated. Employees and guests are required to wear masks and maintain social-distancing.
Despite the official announcement, some properties might not be able to open by the targeted Sept. 9 date, an official with the New York Gaming Association told Casino.org
Michael Kane, president and executive director of the New York Gaming Association, told Casino.org that getting employees back on-site and trained might take extra time in some instances.
By Wednesday, some casinos reported they would open on the date the governor cited, while others pushed their reopening date back.
Among those reporting they would open Wednesday were Resorts World Catskills, Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs, Batavia Downs, and Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper.
The del Lago Casino in the Finger Lakes region near Syracuse also reported it would open Wednesday, as did the Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady.
The newspaper noted that Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway is set to open Sept. 21. Others had not announced an opening date by Wednesday.
The reopenings are likely to be greeted as good news in the state budget office.
Since mid-March, when casinos closed, the state has lost $600 million in gaming tax revenue for the fiscal year beginning April 1. However, that loss can be made up with money from the general fund, said Freeman Klopott, spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget.
Even so, the state will need federal help to close its overall $14.5 billion budget shortfall, Klopott told Casino.org.
About 80 percent of the tax money from gaming goes to education. The other 20 percent is sent to municipalities.