Wednesday, November 06, 2013

One Big Win and Seven Big Losses

Nov. 6, 2013--By Jen Benepe--New York State

Yesterday New York City won by electing a new mayor who has promised to make life in the city easier for the
middle class, by adding more affordable housing, and reducing the frequency of stop and frisk by the police department. 

He is the first Democratic mayor to be elected to the city in 20 years. 

But we also lost big when voters agreed to allow seven casinos to be developed upstate.

Sure, it seems like such an easy plan. Build seven casinos and the money will come rolling in. That's what the pols kept telling you. 

It was like the sleazy guy on the corner offering candy to your kids so they will come into his apartment.

We heard "$94 million dollars," going to schools and the state coffers, and "10,000 jobs," promises rolling off the tongue of Keith L.T. Wright, New York State assembly member representing central and west Harlem and co-chair of the Democratic Party.

Then we confronted a ballot that was written to be checked off with a "yes." That ballot basically promised the same thing--lots of money to the state that will help our schools and help reduce property taxes. 

Wait a second--don't we already have that in the form of the New York State Lottery? What happened to that money?

We don't have access to the pols' planning estimates, but we can pretty much guarantee that they are based on the best possible scenario--all seven casinos running with 100 percent attendance. That's a tall order for a number of reasons. 

First there was the argument that all these people who are now going to gamble in Atlantic City in New Jersey and other states will now go upstate. That's the real joke. We already HAVE 18 casinos upstate, and "those people"--many of them lower income gambling addicts, already voted with their feet--they don't WANT to go upstate. It's too cold, far away, and difficult to get there. 

To get people to come upstate even those casinos have to litter their websites with ad slogans like, "With what happens here we gotta be in the middle of nowhere," and "Worth the drive if you're driven to win."

What's worse, the seven new casinos are going to cannibalize an already seriously slumped industry: The Atlantic City gambling halls are doing so badly, that they need tax exemptions from the state of New Jersey! 

Clearly no one was listening either to  David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values, when he debated with Mr. Wright on NPR radio Nov. 3 while appearing on the Brian Lehrer show

Mr. Blankenhorn pointed out that the casinos don't provide any products, or growth to the state because all they do is take money from the pockets of people who live there, who already can't afford to gamble. It's just a different way to skin a cat--either tax everyone, or take money from poor gambling addicted fools. Wow, that makes a lot of sense. 

If the planners had asked for casinos in New York City that would have been a lot more reasonable. Then you would have some of the 47 million tourists who are drawn to New York City every year and spent $34 BILLION dollars in 2011, try their hand at some gambling the way many of us do when we travel to Las Vegas, NV.  

Then at least we would be fleecing the rich Europeans and South Americans, instead of hunting for hand-offs from the splintered casino participants at the18 existing upstate, and declining New Jersey casinos.