2013-10-11 / Columnists

From The Councilman

Is Full Gaming in the Cards for New York?
Commentary By Councilman Eric Ulrich

ERIC ULRICH ERIC ULRICH This November, New Yorkers will have the final say on a state-wide referendum to amend the state constitution to allow the development of up to seven full-scale casinos. Besides voting for your city elected officials, voters will be asked to approve this amendment, which would make New York the largest state in the country with fullscale Las Vegas-style gambling.

The NYS Constitution currently bans gambling, but over time amendments and lawsuits have made some exceptions, such as video lottery terminals and racetrack betting pools. Full-scale casinos now are allowed only on land owned by Native Americans. In fact, New York already has five casinos in upstate New York owned and operated by Native American tribes, as well as nine racetracks with slot machines and electronic table games, such as Resorts World at Aqueduct. Each of these casinos has created jobs, increased education funding and permitted local governments to control property taxes through revenues generated.

Allowing full scale gambling has long been a contentious issue in New York State. Not surprisingly, Indian tribes that have long had a monopoly on gaming in New York are vehemently opposed. Albany was very careful to craft legislation so that new casinos allowed by this referendum would not be near tribal casinos. Many people also oppose gambling as a form of regressive taxation and feel it invites crime and social problems.

Governor Cuomo has called casinos “a critical part of a larger effort to revitalize the economies of long-suffering upstate regions.” I agree. Allowing full scale gaming will stimulate economic development, invite tourism, create desperately needed jobs, tax revenue and help diversify New York’s economy.

From a very practical point of view, it is also unfair and inconvenient that New Yorkers must travel to casinos in neighboring states such as Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey if they want to play blackjack, roulette and poker.

New York should have cashed in years ago and tapped into the growing gaming industry. With five casinos and nine Racinos throughout the state already up and running, it makes perfect sense for the state to benefit from the revenue and taxes collected by these facilities.

New Yorkers should give gaming a chance.

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