A potential economic and employment boon for Black New Yorkers might be through casinos. However, the governor has told everyone to “pump the brakes.”
The National Urban League and the Las Vegas Sands corporation have created a partnership with the goal of bringing gaming downstate. But they’ll have to get through New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo first.
“I look forward to working with Sands to make an impact on the communities that have far too often been left out of the progress and opportunities in this state,” stated Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “The expansion of downstate gaming will not only bring much needed revenue to the state to fund critical services, but it will provide thousands of new jobs and training programs to New York.”
Some of the leaders backing this partnership include Hazel Duke of the NAACP New York State Conference, the Rev. Clinton Miller of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church, and James Heyliger of the Association of Minority Enterprise of New York.
Partnering to help develop gaming resorts isn’t anything new for the Urban League and Las Vegas Sands said former New York Governor, Senior Vice President and Special Advisor to the President and CEO at Las Vegas Sands David Paterson.
“The Sands corporation has a relationship with the Urban League in Las Vegas and is familiar with the Urban League’s work in a couple of other things, particularly on minority business enterprise,” said Paterson, who joined the push for downstate casinos in July. “What impressed me about them is that they get to know the people, their priorities and how things work. They don’t go into a place, throw some dollars and try to make things happen.”
In a report, Las Vegas Sands outlined the potential economic and social benefits of bringing an integrated resort downstate, including “long-term, sustainable revenue of billions of dollars while the resorts will provide an estimated 15,000 permanent union jobs, and 15,000 union construction jobs.” Sands officials said it would also bring in $1.5 billion in licensing fees.
According to those involved, Sands has promised to develop plans for community outreach and local job training (including a potential partnership with the New York City Housing Authority), education programs (modeled after the partnership with Sands and the University of Nevada Las Vegas), second chance hiring and initiatives involving minority and women-owned businesses (MWBEs).
“They’re willing to do extensive job training in Black and Brown communities to make sure that wherever the casino ultimately goes, that the people that work there reflect what the City of New York looks like and the people who live here,” said Minister and founder of the Arc of Justice Kirsten Foy. “It opens up a process to communities. A process ultimately worth billions of dollars that have been historically locked out of them.”
Foy continued, “Major multi-billion development deals do not particularly prioritize investment partnerships and collaboration with Black and Brown and women-owned businesses. What we’re seeing with Sands and the National Urban League is an opportunity to bring what could potentially be worth billions in construction and ensuring jobs and contracts and opportunities to the Black and Brown community in New York.”
In 2013, the New York State legislature passed a bill establishing four casino licenses for upstate New York. They casinos were given a 10-year runway to get ahead of when the legislature would add three additional licenses. But the upstate casinos are financially struggling. Companies like Las Vegas Sands and MGM have offered to pay the state $500 million to help the struggling casinos, lift the 10-year moratorium and give them a head start to enter the market.
But at the moment, Cuomo is sticking to his guns, stating there would be no downstate casinos before 2023. Back in March, the governor said he found the casino proposals “dubious.”
“We’re going to open up downstate casinos, and we’re going to give money to the upstate casinos, but we don’t want to bid the licenses,” said Cuomo to reporters. “We want to give them to existing enterprises. Look, when we did casinos we were very careful because there’s a lot of money floating around and a lot of lobbyists floating around. And we were very careful to go through a process. It was primarily for upstate New York.”
Cuomo still wants the casinos to settle themselves and meet projections, but Paterson thinks the benefits to Black New Yorkers outweigh keeping the moratorium for a few more years.
“New York was pretty woeful, like, 46th out of 50 states in 2008 in terms of contracts going to minority- and women-owned businesses,” said Paterson. “African Americans were 8% of the verified contracts by the Empire State Development Corp. to do business with the states. They got only 0.66 of the contracts. So those businesses went back to places like Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. All three of those states are in the Black Enterprise top 10 in terms of getting contracts to African-American workers.”
State gaming regulators are expected to come forward with a report on the casino market in New York. Sources in the gaming community believe that the government will use the findings to overhaul regulations on off-betting companies, casinos and racetracks. Foy hopes the government does right by Black New Yorkers.
“This is a real opportunity for all of New York, but specifically for Black and Brown New Yorkers,” he said. “And with the Urban League coming in with their long and storied legacy of economic justice and economic accountability.”
“What’s great about what Sands is doing is trying to work with MWBEs before the ban is lifted,” added Paterson. “Should they be willing to lift that ban, we’ll be ready to go.”