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Casinos and more VLTs crap out in state budget but mobile sports stays in the game

Mike Kennedy of Stony Brook tries his luck

Mike Kennedy of Stony Brook tries his luck at Jake's 58 Hotel & Casino in Islandia on Feb. 27, 2017. Credit: Barry Sloan

Daily Point

Betting interests mostly walk away as losers

With the state budget finally coming into focus Tuesday afternoon, gambling interests got very mixed returns this year.

On Long Island, both the Nassau and Suffolk county OTBs failed to get their requested additional 1,000 machines each.

That’s a big blow to the OTBs and both counties, who feast on the VLT revenue and would love to get more. But for many gamblers, the bigger blow was likely the failure of lawmakers to speed up the timetable and site three full downstate casinos a few years earlier than planned.

The problem with the three casinos is dealing with both of the casinos in Queens and Yonkers that already see two of those licenses as their own, and figuring out where and how to locate the third one. That confusion is also part of the holdup with getting more machines for Jake’s 58 in Suffolk and for Nassau’s deal at Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Raceway, because every machine that gets plugged in around New York City affects the market, and the eventual deal for those three licenses, which could go for more than $500 million each.

Of course, the OTBs never give up, and a spokesman for Suffolk OTB said, "We understand that not everything happens in the budget and we will continue" to push for more machines, touting the jobs and revenue for the state and county they’d provide.

So that’s the bad news for gaming enthusiasts.

But for sports bettors who don’t see a trip upstate or a deal with an illegal bookmaker as part of the thrill of gambling, the news is pretty good: Mobile sports gambling will be legal, with two mobile operators running online sports books, which would then let four "skins" to subcontractors.

The model is close to the one Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has pushed all along, and insiders say it seems intended to cater to the four operators who currently run books at upstate casinos: FanDuel, DraftKings, BetRivers and Bet365. And it’s far from the vision of State Senate Gaming Chair Joseph Addabbo, who wanted up to 14 operators and says, "If this model doesn’t create enough competition and revenue, it could change in 2022."

Of course, any of this can change in any future year. As the film title so aptly said of baseball, but could have referred to the New York State budget, "It Happens Every Spring."

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Garbarino debuts GOP messaging on Democrats’ "excluded workers" push

Even as Albany Democrats angrily fought over a fund for "excluded workers" in this year’s budget, Republicans have begun using the issue as a political cudgel.

The lawmakers were wrangling over whether to provide cash to those who lost out on work during the pandemic but also couldn’t access traditional forms of unemployment, due to immigration status or because incarceration left them ineligible. The exact sums and setup proposed have varied — with some criticisms about how someone establishes residency or lost wages — but the State Senate’s budget proposal included potential weekly benefits of $600 from March 27-July 31, 2020 and $300 from Aug. 1, 2020 to Sept. 6, 2021 for each eligible individual.

Those figures are meant to mimic amounts for which other unemployed workers have been eligible. Advocates don’t tend to put a total dollar figure on it but adding up the sums makes it a much bigger target.

Add in some political slant and you get the Monday subject line from an Andrew Garbarino campaign email: "$27,000 to illegal immigrants?"

The email complains about NY Democrats wanting to give "illegal immigrants & those incarcerated during COVID" a new payment: "Not only are Democrats completely mishandling the CRISIS at the border, but now they want to compound it by giving away billions of taxpayer dollars to illegal immigrants?!"

It’s of a piece with previous campaign emails from the Bayport congressman, which have featured alarm about New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other left-leaning Democrats. The excluded workers issue has also caught the eye of fellow Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who grouped the issue with potentially higher income taxes for high-earners to say, "1-party rule is destroying NY."

"Let's prioritize hard working NYers over ex cons & illegal immigrants," Zeldin wrote in a Monday tweet.

In an interview with The Point, Garbarino said his issues with the proposed fund include the possibility for fraud and the decision not to use this money for other purposes.

Garbarino is in the middle of his first term in DC, fresh out of the State Assembly and a closely-watched 2020 race to replace former Rep. Pete King in CD2. The district was labeled a "District In Play for the 2022 election cycle" by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week.

Garbarino said his campaign sent the email because he opposed the policy.

"I’m trying to push it out there because I don't want it to happen," he said.

As for the politics? "I think anytime Republicans or Democrats are seen as wasting taxpayer money and not spending it on priorities there definitely could be political consequences," he said.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point


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Final Point

Isles management says no penalty box for vax refusal

The New York Mets are providing information on Tuesday for their players as a way to encourage them to take the COVID-19 vaccine and New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello told The Point that the team and the National Hockey League are doing the same.

Lamoriello has gotten vaccinated and said he will encourage his players to get the shot as well.

But, Lamoriello said, it will be up to players and staff to decide whether to follow his lead.

"We certainly recommend it, but it’s the decision of each and every staff member, coaching staff, support staff and players as to whether they get it or not," Lamoriello said. "We’ll do everything we can but once again, it’s the decision of the individual."

Lamoriello said there are no plans for the Islanders to mandate the vaccine. And he noted that the National Hockey League was providing information for players on issues related to COVID-19, including vaccination. In a separate media call, Islanders coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday that he, too, has been vaccinated.

Fans who come to the Coliseum for a game are required to either be vaccinated or show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

When asked whether the Islanders would do public service announcements or other efforts to encourage fans to get the vaccine, Lamoriello noted that fans have only been allowed in Nassau Coliseum for a week, so there hasn’t been time to evaluate such plans.

The Coliseum, which is owned by Nassau County, already is a vaccination site. Could the players get their shots there, perhaps video-recorded for fans to see? Would Sparky, the Islanders’ mascot, get his vaccine, too, to encourage fans to do the same?

Lamoriello wouldn’t say.

"I would strongly recommend it and support it and can only endorse it by saying I’ve gotten it," he added.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall