Cuomo’s 2015-16 NY Budget Plan could bring electronic blackjack to Long Island

Last week, the 2015-16 New York Budget Plan devised by Governor Andrew Cuomo was published. Within the context was an amendment to the state’s current Tax Law that would redefine “Video Lottery Gaming” (VLG) to include authorization for games that “combine elements of chance and skill” (i.e. blackjack and poker). With a clear path set for Long Island where slots parlors are already legal, voters are quickly splitting down the middle by hopping on their preferred fence posts.

Under current New York law [NYCRR 9-4-A, § 5100.2 Definitions (108)], a Video Lottery Game is defined as “any lottery game played on a video lottery terminal that consists of multiple players competing for a chance to win a randomly drawn prize.” As such, the New York State Lottery’s instant win scratch offs and regularly held drawings are the only VLG-style games authorized and regulated by the state.

However, in 2013, NY legislators passed referendums for land-based gambling expansion that allowed multiple licenses for resort casinos, as well as the installment of two slots parlors on Long Island. Slots parlors were originally meant to be what industry analysts often refer to as ‘slots in a box’; a limited size facility that is restricted to a maximum number of slot machines only.

When scripting the new budget plan, Gov. Cuomo was charged with the obligatory task of finding a way to bring in additional revenue, preferably without increasing taxes for the citizens of New York and its respective counties. Allowing video slots parlors to incorporate skill-based VLG’s could be just the catalyst the state needed to generate that supplementary income, but not everyone is happy with the plan.

Since first broke the story on Friday, dozens of comments have appeared, some in favor of Gov. Cuomo’s expansion of skill-based VLGs, and just as many derisively opposed to it. One strong argument in favor of bringing blackjack VLGs to slots parlors was that voters strongly oppose a tax hike, yet also resist any ideas politicians come up with to lower or maintain current tax rates. Additional arguments cited that other gambling activities, like lottery and OTB, are already taking place. What’s the difference if blackjack and poker join the mix?

On the opposite side, voters are concerned about the social effects of expanded gambling, as well as the traffic these establishments will create. One even complained that playing electronic blackjack or poker on a VLG is not a realistic representation of the games, therefore would be an undesirable addition to available gambling opportunities.

Rally to stop plan to legalize electronic blackjack in Long Island slots parlors"A flyer has been circulating (see image right) asking citizens to attend the Nassau County Legislature meeting at 1:00pm today (January 26, 2015). A group will be holding a rally in front of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, NY beginning at 12:15pm this afternoon (prior to the meeting ) in hopes of convincing legislators to reject the plan.

It’s impossible at this point to predict whether the 2015-16 NY Budget Plan will pass, but if recent referendums across the state are any indication, it’s not unlikely that expanding authorized gambling to include electronic blackjack and poker will occur. The state has already approved resort casino licenses for several Upstate locations, and the revenue from those should be substantial, but it will take a few years for those high-class establishments to open. The installment of skill-based VLGs would be an ideal short-time plan to start generating much needed revenue in New York now.