New York Governor Cuomo has announced that the state’s casinos can increase their capacity to 50% starting on May 15. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Pandemic situation easing
Casinos and gaming facilities in New York will be able to operate at 50% capacity starting May 15. The state’s commercial casinos have been operating at 25% capacity since they reopened last September.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a raft of upcoming capacity increases on Monday, covering a range of different sectors. He tweeted out the details of some of these upcoming changes:
This easing of capacity restrictions comes amid decreasing COVID-19 case numbers in the state, with the seven-day average positivity rate falling to its lowest level since November 8. The rollout of vaccines is continuing and the number of people in hospitals with the virus is falling. Cuomo did note, however, that the state is “not out of the woods yet.”
Gradually getting back to normal
The governor has gradually been easing restrictions in recent weeks. In March, he removed the 11pm curfew that was in place on casinos. This meant that casinos could dictate their own opening hours starting from April 5. A continuing curfew on indoor dining, though, means that casino gamblers will likely still not be able to get food or drink past a certain hour.
Bars and restaurants in New York City are currently subject to operating at 50% capacity for indoor dining. This rises to 75% capacity for those establishments outside of the city. Restaurants and bars also have to continue adhering to a midnight curfew.
New York Racing Association is holding off on reintroducing racing fans for now
Governor Cuomo also recently gave the green light to the return of fans to the state’s racetracks. He announced on April 14 that 20% capacity crowds will be allowed during races beginning April 23. Despite getting approval to proceed, the New York Racing Association is holding off on reintroducing racing fans for now.
Other notable easing of capacity restrictions that Governor Cuomo announced on Monday include large outdoor stadiums increasing capacity to 33% from 20% on May 19. Commercial offices are able to go back to 75% of their normal capacity from May 15.
Online sports betting on the way
The pandemic has been very costly for the state. Over 51,500 people have died in New York as a result of COVID-19 to date and the situation has put a significant drain on state finances.
In an effort to generate some new forms of revenue, online sports betting in New York has become a reality. For a number of years, Governor Cuomo rallied against this form of gambling expansion. However, the potential tax and licensing revenues could no longer be ignored. The governor included legal sports betting as part of his final 2022 state budget a few weeks ago, believing that legal online sports betting could generate over $500m for the state each year.
The New York Gaming Commission (NYGC) is currently in the process of developing a framework for the sector. It also will begin the licensing application process for platform providers and operators by July 1.
The NYGC issued a 10-page document last Friday answering some questions about the makeup of the sector. Among the noteworthy clarifications was that each of the four commercial casinos in New York will get $5m each year for being available to host online sports betting servers. At least two licenses for platform providers will be on offer, costing a one-time license fee of $25m. At least four licenses for operators will also be up for grabs.