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What you need to know for 08/21/2017

Concerns about casinos and the arts legitimate

Concerns about casinos and the arts legitimate

Arts groups right to fear unfair competition from casinos

Casino arts, let’s call it. We’ve seen it in Gov. Cuomo’s negotiations with three upstate Indian tribes, which culminated in an agreement for them to pay the state hundreds of millions in revenue each year from their casinos. We’ve seen it in the artful wording of the November constitutional amendment that will ask voters to approve full-fledged commercial casinos on non-Indian lands (but not too close to them, per the agreement with Cuomo). And now we’re seeing it with the issue of casinos and the arts, the subject of a press conference held yesterday in Albany.

The event was organized by a group called the Upstate Theater Coalition, consisting of arts and entertainment venues such as Proctors, Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the Palace in Albany. While they take no official position on casino gambling, they’re worried that casinos would compete with them — and unfairly at that, because with their hefty gambling revenues, the casinos would be able to outbid them for talent.

Fortunately, the governor and state Gaming Commission appear to be listening and sympathetic. They recognize that these regional theaters aren’t just entertainment venues but keys to tourism and economic development, as anyone who has seen what SPAC has done for downtown Saratoga and Proctors for downtown Schenectady knows.

So, responding to the coalition’s concerns, language was inserted in the casino act before its second passage by the Legislature calling for “a fair and reasonable partnership with live entertainment venues” in the local market. And the Gaming Commission has promised to stipulate in the request for proposals that any casino hoping to get a license must have a signed agreement reflecting such a partnership, in consultation with the coalition.

We still oppose casinos on other grounds. But assuming these promises would be kept, not this one.

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