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Foss: Resist push to expand downstate gambling

Foss: Resist push to expand downstate gambling

Foss: Resist push to expand downstate gambling
Photographer: SHUTTERSTOCK

Casinos will generate tax revenue that can be used to fund schools and fix crucial infrastructure. 

They'll attract tourists from throughout the Northeast, and help recoup some of the money spent at out-of-state gaming facilities. 

And they'll create jobs. 

Sound familiar? 

It should. 

Pollyannish statements about casinos were all the rage back in 2013, the year New Yorkers approved Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to revitalize the upstate economy by building Las Vegas-style gaming facilities.

Six years later, the casino industry is back at it, making the same overly optimistic and deeply flawed arguments to make the case for expanding gambling options downstate. 

"The New York City gaming market is a tremendous opportunity to generate hundreds of millions of dollars of incremental tax revenue that could be used to support local schools and revitalize the MTA," MGM Resorts and the Genting Group said in a joint statement, according to the Wall Street Journal

MGM Resorts and the Genting Group both own New York City-area casinos, but those facilities are not allowed to have table games -- something the companies would like to change.   

Also lobbying to expand in the New York City area are the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the casino company owned by Sheldon Adelson, 

According to a recent Politico article, Las Vegas Sands has hired former New York Gov. David Paterson and several consultants with ties to the Cuomo administration. 

The casino industry is also pointing to New York's $2 billion budget shortfall as another reason to expand gambling downstate -- a move that's as opportunistic as it is shrewd. 

Under state law, downstate is barred from having full-scale gaming until 2023, but legislators are desperate to balance the spending plan for next year without enacting painful cuts. 

Will this make the casino industry's case for lifting the moratorium on full-fledged New York City-area casinos now appear more compelling to lawmakers who might otherwise be cool to the idea?

I guess we'll find out. 

In the meantime, it's worth asking what the impact of building new casinos downstate would be on the new casinos upstate -- a group that includes Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady -- all of which have fallen short of their initial revenue projections

From where I sit, it's hard to see new New York City-area gaming facilities making it any easier for the upstate casinos to compete in an already-overcrowded Northeastern casino market. 

But I do wonder whether the downstate and upstate casinos will truly be in competition. 

It's entirely possible that the upstate casinos will cater to a totally different clientele, on a day-to-day basis, than the facilities the casino industry envisions for New York City. 

Either way, the Legislature would be wise to resist the push to expand gambling before 2023. 

We've learned a lot about casino gambling since the upstate casinos came online, and we know that it's not all that it's cracked up to be. 

We shouldn't fall for the lofty promises of the casino industry a second time, and we certainly shouldn't trust that gambling is the solution to all of the state's woes. 

New York needs to find another way to solve its problems, because gambling is fool's gold. 

It always has been, and it always will be. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's

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