Casino Vessel Market Roots Spread To N.E.

Legalized riverboat gaming is — according to various market indicators — primed to spread to and throughout the Northeast U.S., specifically New York, New Jersey & Pennsylvania.

To help pave the profitable way for suppliers to the industry, the Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey will present the Northeast's first waterborne gaming conference and exhibition, dubbed "Rediscovering our Waterways & Waterfront," scheduled for October 3 & 4 at the Whitehall Club in New York (see story, this page).

However, as any casino vessel builder, supplier or designer can attest, the casino vessel market starts and spreads with successful legislation in a given state or area. To date, none of the above-mentioned states have legalized casino riverboats, but according to many inside sources, the time is close for one or more to bring this ever-growing popular entertainment source to the waterways of the Northeast. The following is a state-by-state update of promising casino vessel legislation in the Northeast.

NEW JERSEY: Assemblyman (6th District) Wayne R. Bryant, Esq. proposed riverboat gaming legislation which, basically, reads: "If a state bordering this state authorizes the conduct of any form of casino gambling, the legislature shall authorize by law, within six months thereafter, the conduct of casino gambling on boats which are permanently docked at, or are principally docked at and operate from sites on the shores of this state.

The law authorizing such casino gambling shall provide that: (1) only holders of licenses which are operating casinos in Atlantic City shall be licensed to conduct the casino gambling on such boats; (2) no such license holder in Atlantic City shall be licensed to conduct such casino gambling on more than three boats; and (3) the tax on such casino gambling shall be at the same rate set by law for the operation of gambling establishments in Atlantic City ... except that 25 percent of the state revenues derived from casino gambling on each boat shall be transmitted to the municipality in which the boat is permanently or principally docked." NEW YORK: N Y. Senator Nicholas A.

Spano introduced Senate Bill 6529, which would legalize casino gaming in the Catskill region of the state, casino gaming on vessels navigating the state waters and waterways, and certain gaming at horse racing tracks and simulcast theaters. Specifically, the vessel portion of the bill permits games of chance, any card games of chance, electronic or electromechanical facsimiles of any games of chance, or slot machines upon public vessels being navigated upon state waters and waterways as authorized by the legislature, but only approved in county referendum.

The justification for the bill is that neighboring states currently allow established casino gaming and other gaming opportunities, citing, among others, Pennsylvania's proposed riverboat gaming legislation. The bill also states that "several other New York tourism areas would profit by the use of our beautiful natural bodies of water and waterways for riverboat gambling. The use of state's waterways offers a natural form of containment for the gambling environment and eliminates the high cost of land acquisition and siting (i.e. New York City). The Mayor of New York City and other cities have requested the ability to host riverboat gaming." PENNSYLVANIA: Representative Frank Gigliotti, chairman of the subcommittee of the Finance Committee, has been working to garner support for House Bill 1883.

The bill, which "has already changed and will probably change three or four more times before the final draft," according to Rep. Gigliotti, is being ushered around the state in an attempt to gain valuable input from other state legislators. Rep.

Gigliotti also plans to seek the input of the governor, and will wait until after this fall's gubernatorial elections to do so. If everything goes as planned, he predicts the bill will be up for a May primary vote, and, pending those results of course, his bestcase scenario includes Pennsylvania's first boat in late 1995 or early 1996. Rep.

Gigliotti was adamant about the bill being still in its formative stages, stressing that the final version could look far different than the current version. However, the current bill would provide for three classes of licenses, each with a different franchise tax structure: First Class ($30 million) for the counties which house Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, providing five licenses apiece; Second Class ($20 million) for Erie and Delaware counties, two licenses apiece; and all other counties would have Third Class ($15 million) status, eligible for one license each. The current bill would cap the state riverboat vessel total at 18 to 20.

Other stories from September 1994 issue


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