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Opinion

A numbers game

Jake's 58 Casino in Islandia is back open

Jake's 58 Casino in Islandia is back open for business after it shut down in March due to the pandemic. Credit: Newsday

Daily Point

Slots are going strong in the pandemic

At a time when big crowds are either discouraged or banned in most places thanks to the pandemic, motorists zooming past Jake’s 58 in Islandia can’t help but notice the cars piled up in the parking lot.

The slot parlor is not allowed to run all of its 1,000 machines, but since reopening in September it managed to get 456 machines back online while creating enough space between patrons to meet state distancing rules, Suffolk Off-Track Betting President Phil Nolan told The Point this week.

And the money is pouring in, albeit through fewer faucets.

Last year, running 1,000 machines, Jake’s averaged play of about $11 million a day, and a win for the slot parlor of about $600,000 a day.

Now, operating 456 machines, Jake’s averaged total play of about $9 million a day in October, and a win of about $500,000 a day, out of which it must pay all its taxes and expenses, before giving the rest of the proceeds to Suffolk County.

"When we started talking about putting machines in Suffolk, they told me the most we’d ever do with 1,000 machines on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday was probably $9 million," Nolan said. "Now we’re doing that with 456 machines, and the truth is Jake’s has always surpassed expectations."

Jake’s machines, now and before the pandemic, are by far the most profitable in the state, a fact that allowed Suffolk OTB to exit bankruptcy protection this year having paid off every creditor.

But can Jake’s stay open as infections rise?

Nolan argues it can operate safely, thanks to a high-tech "MERV 13" ventilation system, constant cleaning and rigorous protocols. But he also worries that the facility, where almost all working machines are taken almost every minute Jake’s is open, will be closed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo if this latest surge continues. Cuomo was quick to close gambling halls in March and slow to reopen them when infections slowed down, arguing that gambling is not a necessity and casino crowds are dangerous.

But closing casinos like Jake’s highlights another problem; Cuomo’s empty state coffers. And that’s leading to a lot of talk about expanding gambling in the state with online sports betting and downstate casinos.

In August, the closed Jake’s generated not one dime in governmental revenue. In October, reopened for the full month, it paid $7,476,053 into the state’s education funding alone. And Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told The Point that pre-COVID he’d budgeted $25 million from Jake’s in 2020 and $33 million in 2021. Now it’s unclear what Suffolk will get in 2020 and Bellone has reduced his 2021 projection to $15 million.

Gambling might not be essential, but with the state facing a $60 billion deficit over four years, counties and other municipalities hurting and jobs scarce, the revenues it provides is an increasingly essential part of the New York economy.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Biden likely to win the Island

President Donald Trump is on track to lose against Joe Biden on Long Island, a shift from 2016 when he won the Island by less than 10,000 votes.

The huge number of absentee ballots this time around meant that it has taken a while for the dust to settle in New York. Nassau County certified its results a couple days ago, showing Biden with a nearly 70,000-vote lead there. In Suffolk, the count at the end of the day Tuesday had Trump up by approximately 8,000 votes, with 13,558 absentee and affidavit ballots still to be counted: 6,053 cast by Democrats, 3,375 from Republicans, and 3,266 by voters registered as blanks, according to county election board data.

Even if Trump were to win every single one of those paper ballots that had not been counted by Tuesday, including those of all the Democrats and blanks, he would still lose the Long Island vote overall.

In 2016, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won Nassau by just over 40,000 votes, while Trump took Suffolk by close to 50,000 — a margin that appears to have substantially collapsed this time around.

Suffolk did not exactly turn blue in 2020, however, as can be seen further down the ticket in SD3, where incumbent Democratic State Sen. Monica Martinez conceded to Republican challenger Alexis Weik in a Wednesday morning statement.

In a Wednesday event, the Suffolk GOP claimed victory not only in the SD3 upset but in keeping three other seats in the GOP fold as well. State Sen. Phil Boyle noted that despite Democrats nabbing an upper chamber supermajority in the state as a whole, "Here in Suffolk County we went against the tide." Included in the victory celebration was Assemb. Anthony Palumbo, who was pitted against Democrat Laura Ahearn in SD1, where — coming into Wednesday — Ahearn trailed by more than the 2,000 ballots left to count in the district.

Trump’s Long Island flop was not the only interesting metro-area shift for the president. In final NYC results posted Tuesday, the president’s totals in the Bronx increased by some 30,000 over 2016, even as votes for Biden remained approximately equal with those for Clinton at more than 350,000. That GOP jump, however, was overwhelmed by the overall number of city residents who came out for the former vice president, including a whopping — and leading — 703,310 in Brooklyn alone.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

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Final Point

I bet your pardon

If Rudy Giuliani is angling for a preemptive pardon from President Donald Trump, as has been reported, he’s going to have to get in line, according to betting markets.

Five other people are considered more likely to receive a Trump pardon, according to online sportsbook Bovada, a list headed by one of the president’s 2016 campaign chairs, Paul Manafort.

Others with more favorable odds than Giuliani as of Wednesday morning are former Trump campaign officials George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates and Steve Bannon and the president himself in a self-pardon. Considered equally as likely as Giuliani to be pardoned is the wild card in the bunch, former CIA whistleblower and current Russian resident and prospective Russian citizen Edward Snowden.

Just behind Giuliani is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, with Jeffrey Epstein confidante Ghislaine Maxwell and controversial former zoo operator Joe Exotic further behind.

A similar scenario can be found at the popular PredictIt website. At the pseudo stock market, where users buy and sell shares of propositions and win $1 for each share if they’re right, you could buy a share of Giuliani getting a pardon by the end of 2020 for 28 cents on Wednesday morning, while a share of Manafort receiving clemency cost 67 cents.

As for the odds on Giuliani winning a post-election fraud case in the courts, well, there doesn’t seem to be any line on that.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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