Will casinos benefit NY? We’ll get back to you
New Yorkers have gone and done it. We’re going to have new gambling emporiums in the Empire State.
Andrew Cuomo pushed for it and the voters listened. It wasn’t a rout but New Yorkers seemed to accept the basic rationales set forth by the governor. The idea that clinched the deal with the voters was that if people wanted to gamble, they should be allowed to do so. Some of the gambling money would stay in New York. People wouldn’t have to go across the Hudson to New Jersey or Connecticut or Massachusetts or to the Indian gaming facilities in New York. Naturally, there was a promise of money coming into the state tax coffers and that, in the minds of some, was money that taxpayers like you and me wouldn’t be responsible for paying. If people are hell bent on gambling, they’ll find a way to do it, one way or the other. If the choice comes down to giving all the gambling money to a bunch of gangsters or having state sanctioned facilities, then by all means, give the taxpayers a break.
The idea also dovetails nicely with Andrew Cuomo’s upstate strategy. He really needs upstate votes in the upcoming gubernatorial election and he insisted to the Legislature that the more economically distressed upstate regions should be first in line for the new casinos. While there are some regions in the state where the proposition failed because people thought the whole idea of gambling was morally corrupt, the state voted for it. Some places like the southern tier of the state really like the idea. Hey, if they weren’t going to get fracking, how about gambling? Some of the old Borscht Belt hotels, which have been closed for years, now have the potential for rejuvenation.
Naturally, the politicians have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Anyone who doesn’t think that the lobbyists representing gambling enterprises will try to get all the help they can from tin horn politicians looking for handouts in order to secure their elected positions doesn’t know who they are dealing with. In what seemed like a good idea, the original proposal for legislation enabling gambling had a provision stipulating that people seeking help to build casinos could not donate money to politicians. Of course, that provision was struck from the bill. Big surprise there. These people in the Legislature are so shameless that they are not going to tie their hands behind their backs when it comes to legal bribery. If the money is there, they figured, why would we not allow ourselves to put our filthy hands in the cookie jar?
Now we have to sit back and wait as the process plays out. We’ll have to keep a sharp eye on who gives what and who gets what in return. We’ll also have to see what these establishments do to the communities that house them. Are they really going to be fostering new economic development in the form of jobs or will the gaming institutions simply import the professional gaming community into new localities? Will the new gaming palaces be responsible for ancillary business development around them or will the model be more like Atlantic City where casual observation does not confirm adjacent development? Will a new class of gambling addicts develop in the winning communities and become a drain on the local mental health and criminal justice services? Will other enterprises that aren’t legal, like drugs and prostitution, follow along as they have in certain other localities? Does a bear walk in the woods? Will organized crime attempt to make inroads into these new gaming establishments? I mean, who wants a horse’s head in their bed?
We’ll get back to you as things unfold.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/12/13