We’re not going to lie: Our mind was made up on casino gambling — or “gaming,” as Gov. Andrew Cuomo prefers to call it — long before he and the state Board of Elections did a little gaming themselves, inserting language in next week’s referendum to make it sound like a sure-fire economic development plan.
Amending the state constitution to allow full-scale gambling casinos in New York is a bad idea for the state, and particularly for the Capital Region.
For starters, it seems unlikely — given the fact that most of the states around New York either already have casinos or are planning to build them — that gazillions of tourists will flock here to gamble. Thus the $430 million annual revenue projection seems suspect.
More likely, the people who’ll be throwing their money away at the tables will be New Yorkers, the very ones who can’t afford to lose: low- and middle-incomers, and the very ones that could become wards of the state. Will New York lend a hand to the families of compulsive gamblers who bet the rent money on a roll of the dice? That’s probably not in the cards.
But even if the casinos don’t drain local players’ bank accounts, they’ll surely impact these people’s discretionary incomes, which will hurt competing entertainment venues. So even if the casinos don’t engage in predatory bidding practices for the artists that places like Proctors or SPAC attract, they’ll leave these venues’ customer base with less money to buy tickets.
How about the jobs the casinos are supposed to generate? Yes, there will be good-paying construction jobs to get them built. But as far as running them goes, the companies that win the contracts will most likely bring in their own, experienced people (from casinos in other states) for the best-paying ones. Service jobs given to local, inexperienced residents when new casinos open typically don’t pay very well.
As for the notion that the money generated by casino operations will help fund education: This is an insulting come-on (as is the similar claim about lottery revenues), implying that it will result in a net increase in education aid. In reality, the gambling revenue will be offset by cuts in aid from the state’s general fund.
As for the Capital/Saratoga Region, which seems a sure bet to land one of the four upstate casinos if the referendum goes through: It’s likely to impact horse-related gambling enterprises already here — the highly successful Saratoga Race Course and harness track/racino — and perhaps most importantly of all, the agricultural infrastructure that supports them. Woe to the entire region if those jobs, and that farmland, start to disappear.
Essentially, casino gambling seems like a get-rich-quick scheme for the state. But like gambling itself, it probably won’t pan out. And even if it does, it will create problems for the state that negate most of the benefits.