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Is a New York City casino license worth $1 billion?

20 April 2022

No government has ever asked $1 billion just for the right to build a casino.

That still is true. But that’s how much New York Governor Kathy Hochul had originally wanted for casinos in New York City.

Casino executives and lobbyists were able to get the leaders of the State Legislature to put pressure on the Governor. Now the state’s $220 billion budget for 2023 includes only a $500 million fee for each of three downstate casinos; although, that might rise to as much as $750 million. This is in addition to minimum gross gaming revenue taxes of 25% on slots and 10% on table games.

The question is whether any casino, even one in Times Square, is worth a license of half or three-quarters of a billion dollars. Although the answer to that might be, “Yes,” I would advise against writing that check unless it comes with legislation guaranteeing that the state and city won’t come back later asking for more later.

In 2009, I was hired by the State of Delaware to recommend the tax rate for its new sportsbooks. I looked at every jurisdiction I could find everywhere in the world. What I discovered was that every government had raised its tax rates or fees on casinos, once they were open and successful.

When I mentioned this during a speech before leaders of state legislatures, one of the Mississippi delegates challenged me. “We never raised our casino tax rates,” he said.

“That’s true,” I responded. “You just imposed a $1 per head fee on every patron entering a casino. Since no casino is going to stop and ask every patron for $1, they just accepted it as a new tax.”

One legislator bragged to me that his state raised the gambling tax every year until a third of the casinos went bankrupt. Then they lowered it.

Illinois even raised its highest tier casino tax to 70%, before the governor went to jail. Casino owners rightly feel that a tax above 50% makes the state the senior partner.

The only jurisdiction I am aware of that did not raise gambling taxes in Singapore. Before the two casinos opened in 2010, the government locked itself into not increasing its take for 12 years. By 2019 the government couldn’t stand it anymore. So, starting in March 2022 mass-market tax went from a flat 15% to a tiered 18% and 22%; premium player tax from 4% to 8% and 12%.

The lesson for every casino company about to write that $500 million check to New York is to make sure that all tax rates and fees are locked into the gaming legislation.

Remember the proposed NY casino tax rates are minimums. And governments always get greedy.
I. Nelson Rose

Professor I. Nelson Rose is an internationally known scholar, public speaker and writer and is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on gambling law. A 1979 graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a tenured full Professor at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California, where he teaches one of the first law school classes on gaming law.

Professor Rose is the author of more than 300 books, articles, book chapters columns. He is best known for his internationally syndicated column, "Gambling and the Law ®," and his landmark 1986 book by the same name. His most recent book is a collection of columns and analysis, co-authored with Bob Loeb, on Blackjack and the Law.

A consultant to governments and industry, Professor Rose has testified as an expert witness in administrative, civil and criminal cases in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and has acted as a consultant to major law firms, international corporations, licensed casinos, players, Indian tribes, and local, state and national governments, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas and the federal governments of Canada and the United States.

With the rising interest in gambling throughout the world, Professor Rose has spoken before such diverse groups as the F.B.I., National Conference of State Legislatures, Congress of State Lotteries of Europe, United States Conference of Mayors, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has presented scholarly papers on gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, England, Australia, Antigua, Portugal, Italy, Argentina and the Czech Republic.

He is the author of Internet Gaming Law (1st & 2nd editions), Blackjack and the Law and Gaming Law: Cases and Materials.

I. Nelson Rose Websites:

www.gamblingandthelaw.com

Books by I. Nelson Rose:

Gambling and the Law

> More Books By I. Nelson Rose

I. Nelson Rose
Professor I. Nelson Rose is an internationally known scholar, public speaker and writer and is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on gambling law. A 1979 graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a tenured full Professor at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California, where he teaches one of the first law school classes on gaming law.

Professor Rose is the author of more than 300 books, articles, book chapters columns. He is best known for his internationally syndicated column, "Gambling and the Law ®," and his landmark 1986 book by the same name. His most recent book is a collection of columns and analysis, co-authored with Bob Loeb, on Blackjack and the Law.

A consultant to governments and industry, Professor Rose has testified as an expert witness in administrative, civil and criminal cases in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and has acted as a consultant to major law firms, international corporations, licensed casinos, players, Indian tribes, and local, state and national governments, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas and the federal governments of Canada and the United States.

With the rising interest in gambling throughout the world, Professor Rose has spoken before such diverse groups as the F.B.I., National Conference of State Legislatures, Congress of State Lotteries of Europe, United States Conference of Mayors, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has presented scholarly papers on gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, England, Australia, Antigua, Portugal, Italy, Argentina and the Czech Republic.

He is the author of Internet Gaming Law (1st & 2nd editions), Blackjack and the Law and Gaming Law: Cases and Materials.

I. Nelson Rose Websites:

www.gamblingandthelaw.com

Books by I. Nelson Rose:

Compulsive Gambling and the Law

> More Books By I. Nelson Rose