Two Downstate Racinos Are Downstate Casinos Now






        For  practical purposes, there are at least two non-tribal full-service casinos operating today in New York State. If that surprises you, read on.   The facilities at Aqueduct  and at Yonkers call themselves casinos yet pose as “racinos.”  In my opinion they are real casinos, cleverly disguised as “racinos.”   They don’t have human croupiers or dealers, but offer table games in which the outcome of a play is governed by the same  laws of physics that determine the outcome of a throw or spin  by a human being.  Such table games are billed as part of lottery.  I say  they are illegal.  What’s your opinion?   

     An editorial in the New York Daily News May 5 showed that at Resorts World Casino (Aqueduct Racino) “electronic table games” of craps, Bo-Sic, roulette,  and baccarat are bringing in a good part of the “video gaming” revenues.

     I am not a lawyer, but was persuaded by the carefully-researched editorial and by my own reading of the opinion of the Appeals Court in 2005 that these games are not permitted under the present New York State Constitution.  Though operated by NYS Lottery, they do not meet the definition of “lottery” in the same way as do video lottery terminals (VLTs).

     One week later, the Daily News had a follow up editorial that reinforced my view.

      A different opinion  from Queens D.A. Richard Brown was in that  May 12 issue.   

     With all due respect, I believe the D.A.’s argument was wrong.   It focused on the elements  “multiple participation” and “tickets, ” not mentioning (but assuming) connection to a computerized central system.  It did not address a key word that appeared twice in the relevant sections of the May 2005 Court of Appeals decision in Dalton v. Patakipredetermined.  The full record of the 2005 decision referred to by D.A. Brown is below.,33&case=8832631772677877756&scilh=0 

     “Table games” were specifically not included  in “lottery” in the 2005 opinion. At that time human hands-on and eyes-on were still necessary to run a game of physical roulette or baccarat. To this day most people think it’s table games with a human presence opposite the customers that defines a full-fledged casino, making it more “destination”-like  than a slot barn or racino.

     With the electronc table games (ETGs) new since 2005, human operators are absent but the physical aspects are the same.   Granted, bets are placed on a screen, not with chips on a cloth, and the terminal may be connected to a central computer.  Yet the outcome of a single  throw or spin is not under the robot’s control. It’s due to momentum, friction, angles, physical forces.  If physical dice bounce off  a physical back wall,  it is inconceivable that any instructions the robot arm might get about grip, release and velocity could determine what the dice show at rest.  If the roulette wheel is “fair,” (unlike Rick’s in Casablanca), the ball when it rolls out cannot be destined by a far-off central  computer for black sixteen. 

     In contrast, the 2005 opinion is  explicit that the outcome of a single play on a VLT is predetermined.   I quote: “The VLT receives the next ticket from the site controller and displays the predetermined outcome-win or loss.”    It seems to me  that if the outcome of a play is not predetermined as the roll starts (i.e. is due to instant  physical forces),  it is not under control in a remote central computer.  ETGs are therefore not part of Lottery and are prohibited by the Constitution,  just as if the dice were thrown by a human being.

     Coalition Against Gambling in New York opposes all forms of predatory gambling,  both “legalized”  and illegal.    In  the ETGs at these racinos we see the worst of both worlds, illegal gambling disguised as “legal.”  

     A full-fledged  casino is characterized  by table games in which the outcomes of individual plays are not under the instantaneous control of a remote central computer operated by the New York State Lottery.   The Daily News argues ( and I agree) that before the proposed  constitutional referendum on casinos has even been considered a second time by the legislature,  New York State already has at least two  full-fledged non-tribal casinos running full tilt, and they are both decidedly “downstate.”  What does this observation say about the Governor’s supposed phase I plan for three casinos, all upstate? Two are going right now, one in Queens and one in Westchester.

      Everyone who opposes predatory gambling in New York is grateful to the Daily News for breaking this story, with such careful background work.  CAGNY and like groups need to decide what we can and should do with the information.

    The opinions in this piece are those of the author, Stephen Q. Shafer, and do not necessarily represent the views of any or all other members of CAGNY.  Permission to distribute or reproduce this piece in whole or in  part is hereby granted on condition that the above permalink is cited.

     The image, titled “spin” is from flickr creative commons



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