New York’s casino industry might finally be ready to reopen. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has now hinted that the state’s casinos may be allowed to reopen soon.
Cuomo made the suggestion while on a conference call with reporters on August 30. “We will have an announcement next week,” the governor said. “It is going to be positive news.”
No further details were provided, so an exact time table for when casinos will be allowed to reopen will have to wait. Cuomo emphasized that casinos and racinos are still considered non-essential, and safety from the Covid-19 pandemic still comes first. “I understand their point, I understand their economic reality, I understand the feeling that you see other places opening up but you still can’t go back to work,” Cuomo said.
Operators saw this as promising news. Jon Schneider, spokesman for Suffolk OTB, operator of Jake’s 58 in Islandia, doesn’t know exactly what Cuomo has planned. But Jakes’ 58 will be ready if given the green signal. “Based on what the governor said, we are optimistic,” Schneider said
Because casinos are seen as non-essential businesses, and Cuomo is being careful not to reignite the worst hot spot of the U.S. Covid-19 pandemic, he’s held off on reopening the gambling industry too soon, keeping things closed while other state’s like Nevada and New Jersey have gone ahead with reopening.
But the reopening of several upstate tribal casinos, operated by the Oneida and Seneca nations, has created some questions from employees of the industry. Gaming inspectors, put back to work in June when these locations reopened, questioned why commercial casinos couldn’t also reopen. They couched their questions in the broader criticism that perhaps tribal casinos weren’t as safe as they needed to be.
Cuomo’s hand might have ultimately been forced by some of these cranky casino employees. Recent rallies, pushing for the reopening of casinos, could have been a greater health risk than a well maintained, regulated casino. Before them, Cuomo said a decision would be made at the appropriate time. Now, we know a decision is coming sooner than later.