Leveling the playing field
Consortium of 13 venues worked together to ensure upstate N.Y. casinos would not have unfair advantage booking entertainment
A role of the dice by an alliance of 13 upstate arts and entertainment venues resulted in a big payoff in 2014 as newly approved New York State casino projects signed contracts to ensure they would not have an unfair advantage in booking headlining acts. The Upstate Theater Coalition for a Fairgame, composed of the senior executives of municipal and not-for-profit live entertainment facilities including Proctors, was founded a year earlier to consider actions to protect upstate’s arts and entertainment venues from unfair talent-booking competition from pending casino locations.
Working with the governor’s office and the NYS Gaming Commission, Fairgame urged the requirement of specific agreements for casinos then participating in the competitive bidding process—namely, financial support of existing venues; capacity limits on venue seating; and talent-booking exclusivity.
In September 2014, Proctors CEO Philip Morris and Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) President and Executive Director Marcia White, representing Fairgame, testified before the New York Gaming Facility Location Board, noting that signed agreements were successfully reached with 12of the 16 applicants vying for four new casino licenses available in three upstate New York regions: the Southern Tier, the Catskills and the Capital Region.
Morris, also chairman of Fairgame, told the location board, regarding the Capital Region location, “These agreements represent the compromises and concerns that we believe were anticipated in the original RFA. We feel strongly that we can work with these applicants. We also believe that the local institutions that have come together …. will continue to collaborate in the manner reflected in the agreements. Commenting about the testimony,” White said, “We believe Fairgame evidences a remarkable and sincere effort to support and preserve the facilities and programs for which we daily fight so hard—facilities that have defined our communities, sometimes, for over a century. That is why we are bound to each other so tightly. We thank Governor Cuomo, the NYS Gaming Commission and the New York Gaming Facility Location Board for hearing our concerns and giving us a way to shape our future.”
Fairgame’s work proved successful. By the time winning bidders—including Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor (Capital Region), Lago Resort & Casino (Southern Tier) and Montreign Resort Casino (Catskills/Hudson Valley)—were announced in December 2014, agreements were already in place regarding Fairgame’s concerns.
“We are pleased that we have been successful in accomplishing Fairgame’s mission; to create a level playing field for all entertainment venues seeking to bring talent to New York State,” Morris said to the press. “We thank the Governor, state and local officials and the members of the NYS Gaming Commission for their vision, understanding and support. They clearly recognize the need to protect the arts in New York State as economic engines that bring culture, tourism, education, and jobs to our regions, while also providing an immeasurable quality of life for the people of New York State.”
“We’re proud that this initiative brought together so many outstanding arts organizations from across the state for the very first time,” Morris added. “Working together we are stronger; working together we can help protect, and preserve, the vibrancy of the arts in this state. A clear win-win for everyone.”
In addition to Proctors and SPAC, participating venues included Saratoga Springs City Center, Saratoga Springs; Palace Theatre and Times Union Center, Albany; Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel; Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy; Bardavon, Poughkeepsie; Ulster Performing Arts Center, Kingston; State Theatre of Ithaca, Ithaca; Clemens Center, Elmira; Auditorium Theatre, Rochester; and The Forum Theatre, Binghamton.