State mulls legalizing online poker | Local News | – Oneonta Daily Star

ALBANY — Has New York hit a saturation point when it comes to venues for gambling?

That question has surfaced at the statehouse where some lawmakers are pushing to legalize online poker while Jeff Gural, the operator of Vernon Downs, a racino in Oneida County, says he fears he will have to close his operations and lay off hundreds of workers to stem mounting financial losses.

The discussion over the state’s gaming policy is heating up less than a year after three full-service casinos opened in upstate New York. They joined nine racinos, including Vernon Downs, as well as 11 venues operated by Native American tribes. Those include the Seneca Nation casinos in Niagara Falls, Irving, Cuba and Salamanca, as well as the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino and the Mohawk Bingo Palace and Casino, both in Franklin County.

Gaming expansion has also happened throughout the Northeast and eastern Canada, a region home to more than three times the number of casinos it hosted in 2002, said Phil Pantano, spokesman for the Seneca Nation.

“Of course there has been an impact on existing properties,” Pantano said.

New York’s three new non-Indian casinos — in Schenectady, the Finger Lakes and Tioga Downs — were opened after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2013 that ended a ban on non-Indian gambling halls. Gural also owns Tioga Downs.

The menu of options grew last year when lawmakers allowed betting on fantasy sports after a lobbying campaign backed by Hall of Fame Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.

Meanwhile, state-regulated lottery games — which include scratch-off tickets, Powerball and Quick Draw — have grown steadily since being introduced in 1967. The state’s four thoroughbred race tracks and eight harness tracks have been around even longer.

Among those arguing that it’s time for state policymakers to hit the

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