Thursday, August 22, 2013

Four Casinos in New York State – A Winner for Jobs and Beyond

In elections, people must usually choose from two or more political sides, each with its own philosophy.  We must therefore choose an ideology before filling out our ballots.  A chance to vote directly on an action to be taken or not taken, not hidden within any political view, is much less common, and an opportunity to weigh in on something that will clearly and directly affect the number of jobs in an area is rarer still. 

That, though, is what New York state voters will have on November 5th. 

New York State Assembly Bill 8068, also known as Proposition 1 or the New York Casino Gambling Amendment, calls for a total of four full-service gambling houses to be built in three upstate areas:  the Catskills,  the Binghamton area, and around Albany or Saratoga.  After seven years, three additional casinos would be approved for the New York City area.  The measure passed the Statehouse March 18th and the State Senate on June 4th, with unanimous approval both times.  Since the bill would involve revising the state constitution, it must now be approved directly by the voters.  So what are its merits?

A pro-amendment organization, operating under “Vote Yes for NYS Gaming Amendment” and similar phrases, named “property tax relief, job creation, and more education funding” as reasons for passing the proposition.  The case for casinos in the areas mentioned, though, goes much deeper.

First, the increased tax revenues, from income as well as corporate profits, could be quite large, and could go beyond either dedicated education support or lowered property taxes.

Second, even just one casino-hotel in each of these areas would help tourism considerably.  It is now almost mandatory for tourist areas catering to adults to have at least one full-service gambling outlet, and racinos, with limited scopes and without table games are not sufficient.  Casino gambling need not be the primary attraction, as it is in Las Vegas, but it needs to be available, as in, for example, New Orleans.

Third, casinos offer recreation to local residents.  Not only do they offer gambling propositions vastly more fair than pari-mutuels and lotteries with their 20% and almost 50% player disadvantages, but the concerts, restaurants, headline shows, and nightclubs would be valued by many. 

On the other side, all of the disadvantages commonly named by detractors are less significant than they may seem.  It is true that about 5% of the population cannot handle gambling, but between lotteries, illegal online propositions, and racinos, they are not nearly as shielded from it as they were before the Internet and the spread of gambling outside Nevada.  Some local businesses would suffer from new competition, but others of similar or greater economic impact would appear.  Casinos are no longer destinations, so we could not expect truly massively increased numbers of visitors, but that same factor cuts down the amount of associated crime.  In all, the proposition’s $500 tax on each slot machine or gaming table earmarked for problem-gambling-helping organizations may make Gamblers Anonymous and similar groups less overwhelmed, not more, given how many people in the area need their services as it is.  Even police involvement may be more than mitigated by the opportunity for larger budgets.

Not every large business venture for Broome, Saratoga, and Sullivan County should be accepted.  Hydraulic fracturing was rejected in almost every township in the latter, in large part because those wanting to bring it in were not able to show how it would help local residents.  The people of every community with as great natural beauty as these three must reject plans that would disturb that too much. 

In that context, the case for casinos, which would involve tearing up only a matter of acres of landscape, is as strong as any we are likely to see.  Old resort areas need new reasons for people to come back.  Full-scale casino-hotels average one full-time employee per guest room – a new or reopened 500-room facility near Liberty, as has been proposed, would mean that many new jobs, in a county with fewer than 32,000 of them now.  Gambling, government sanctioned or not, has loomed large in the histories of both Saratoga and the Catskills, and today’s players want clean, legal casinos where their rights are consistently protected.  New Yorkers living in these areas will gamble whether the proposition is passed or not; if not locally, much of their action will go, as it does now, to Pocono Downs, Foxwoods, Atlantic City, and therefore to the benefit of other state governments.  In exchange for real but generally small and mitigated amounts of non-natural disturbances, we would get more freedom, and, in the case of Sullivan County, a conservative 1% unemployment-rate drop from one such facility all by itself.

Overall, we have to decide what we want.  We can stay with what we have, which has a lot going for it but too few economic opportunities, even for current residents.  Or we can bring in money and jobs in ways that will be unobtrusive to the massive majority of those who do not want to be involved with them.  The choice, in this case, is clear.        

6 comments:

  1. Thank you! I'll have a WORK SHIFT episode on the casino issue also, now scheduled for October 30th.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Upstate NY Gaming Development Act provides $500 per slot machine for gambling addiction programs. The average income from an electronic slot machine at Resorts World racino is more than $370 a day,( NY Times 10/23/12) compared with $169 for slots on the Strip in Las Vegas. So let' say the daily earnings of a NY slot machine average only $250 per day. Two days of earning a year then go for addiction mitigation. Two days of earning are .005 or 1/2 of 1 % of the annual earnings of that machine. Casinos are getting about 50% of their revenues from gamblers with disordered gambling and providing less than 1 % for treatment.
    This fig-leaf funding is going "to make sure anyone with a gambling problem has access to resources to overcome the problem?" The drastic underfunding of addiction mitigation continues as a majority of legislators, in both houses, of both parties, who have irresponsibly voted to put New York in the predatory casino business. Also -the Amendment is misrepresented -the flowery language about benefits is not in the Amendment as passed twice by the Legislature but was added to Prop One to encourage passage, a tricky practice. see nosaugertiescasino.org and CAGNYinf.org for the anti-casino case.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Three responses here. One, it's hard to define just who practices "disordered gambling" outside those who are clearly losing everything. Two, the lotteries, nearby racinos, Atlantic City, Foxwoods, Pocono Downs, and of course online opportunities offer plenty of chances for people to overindulge as it is - it's not like the 1950s where US gambling was parimutuels, Las Vegas, and various illegal options. Three, the advantages, which are huge, must be balanced against the disadvantages.

    Thank you for your response!

    ReplyDelete
  4. When governments make vices legal you’re left with no other choice but to put regulations into the laws that govern these vices. When it comes to the gaming industry VICE/SCAM I know my safeguards things like No 24/7 Gambling, No Free Booze, No Smoking, No Check Cashing, No Interest Free Credit, No Free Play, No Comps, making casino operators send Casino Monthly Statements to those enrolled in casino reward card programs along casino employees intervene when their patrons are gambling excessively will stop the ‘BREEDING’ of compulsive casino gambling degenerates who will become criminals. These regulations will also make it an even playing field for business owners that are within a 10 to 20 mile radius of casinos, especially those who have liquor, food, and entertainment licensees.

    To learn more about Casino Monthly Statements and this ‘VICE/SCAM’ know today as ‘GAMING’ go on line and Google-up Bill Kearney on casino gambling.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Agreed.

    Thank you for your contribution!

    ReplyDelete