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Comptroller report finds Upstate casinos like del Lago fell short of expectations

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

A new report released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli reveals that New York’s four licensed casinos have generated $176 million in gaming tax revenue from 2017 to 2022. However, only the three smaller host towns realized significant fiscal benefits, while the revenues and tax contributions continued to lag behind expectations, reaching just 50-60% of initial projections.

The report highlights the smaller towns of Nichols, Tyre, and Thompson, where gaming tax revenue made up 30-60% of total revenue, enabling substantial property tax reductions. In contrast, larger host areas such as Schenectady and four host counties only saw gaming tax constituting 1-3% of their total revenue. In regional non-host counties, the impact was even less significant, with casino taxes making up less than 0.5% of total revenue.

The shortfall in collections is attributed partly to the pandemic, with casinos shut down for six months in 2020 and facing capacity restrictions through June 2021. Though all four casinos exceeded pre-pandemic gross gaming revenues in 2022, local gaming taxes did not increase proportionally. State amendments to New York’s gaming law allowed casinos to retain more gross revenue by reducing tax rates for Slot & Electronic Table Games to 30%, leading to a $41.9 million decrease in collections, including $8.4 million that would have gone to local governments.

Comptroller DiNapoli’s report emphasizes the importance of realistic fiscal planning and warns against viewing casinos as a magic fix for local fiscal challenges. Issues including budgeting difficulties related to gaming revenue were identified in audits of two host towns, emphasizing the need for proper, multi-year financial planning. DiNapoli hopes the report will guide officials in planning for the revenue from the soon-to-be-awarded Downstate casinos.

The report, focused solely on the financial impacts of hosting a casino, did not explore non-financial issues like gambling addiction or quality of life. A separate report addressing those topics is expected to be released by Comptroller DiNapoli later this year.