Months-long Casino closures could impact New York State’s schools, cities with budget crisis

Months-long Casino closures could impact New York State’s schools, cities with budget crisis

The continued closure of casinos in New York State (NYS) has started showing impact on services like schools, health care, police and fire departments, as the government has lost a significant source of tax money. According to the state’s budget office, tax money from the gaming sector has been estimated to be down by around $600 million. Nearly 80 per cent of gaming tax revenue is utilized to support education, while the remaining 20 per cent goes to municipalities.

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) hasn’t set a timeline for the gambling and entertainment facilities to reopen, many politicians and government officials have raised concerns on budget crunch. Any deficit in budget means that schools and municipalities will receive less money from the gaming sector during the current financial year, which started on 1st of April.

While some of the loss could be offset by funds from the state general fund, the state will surely need a cash infusion from the federal government to endure the crisis. As per fresh estimates, New York State’s budget is facing a massive shortfall of $14.5 billion.

Concerned over potential cuts in funding, NYS United Teachers President Andy Pallotta stressed that any cut in education funding should be “the last thing” to do by the government. He suggested that taxing the ultra-wealthy people in the state and using ‘rainy day funds’ could be the other options for the government to collect funds.

Commenting on the issue, Pallotta said, ‘If the federal government fails to provide those resources, New York lawmakers need to take action by taxing the ultra-wealthy and using rainy day funds and borrowing authorities to provide our schools the resources they need to reopen safely,”

The concerns are being raised amid growing restlessness among casino workers who are eager to return to work. On 20th of August, a rally was held outside the Capitol in Albany, demanding the Democratic governor to allow the gaming facilities to reopen their doors to the general public. The properties have been shuttered since mid of March as Corona virus-caused deaths were on the rise across the state.

While the Empire State’s four commercial casinos are helplessly sitting idle, tribal casinos across the state have been in action since early June as they are being operated by federally-recognized tribes that are not bound to obey the state governor’s orders. According to the New York Gaming Association, continued closure of the commercial casinos is making a huge dent into the state’s coffers. Since 2014, the gaming facilities have reportedly generated $8.3 billion for education.