Back in 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told voters that casino expansion would help to relieve the economic woes faced by residents of upstate New York. The Governor proposed an amendment to the New York State Constitution to allow upstate casinos on non-Indian lands. With the help of some shady shenanigans—specifically, the placement of blatantly slanted language about the amendment on the general election ballot—the Governor got his way.
Now, the Governor’s casino visions are becoming realities.
On December 2, 2016, the expanded Tioga Downs Casino in the Southern Tier opened for business. (Tioga Downs, which is owned by major Cuomo donor Jeff Gural, expanded from a racino to a full-fledged Vegas-style casino with table games.) On February 1, the del Lago Casino in Seneca County held its grand opening. On February 8, the Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady welcomed bettors for the first time; not surprisingly, alleged criminal behavior at the casino has already made headlines. And the proposed Montreign Resort and Casino in the Catskills is expected to begin operating next spring.
While Gov. Cuomo is busy applauding these developments, some Members of the Legislature—apparently believing that casino expansion upstate and video lottery terminals on Long Island are not enough—are pushing for the legalization and taxation of online poker. Bill S.3898 – Bonacic/A.5250 – Pretlow would legalize, regulate, and tax two forms of online poker known as Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em. Specifically, this bill would empower the New York State Gaming Commission to issue up to 11 online gambling licenses and collect a license fee of $10 million from each licensee. In addition, the bill would require each online gambling licensee to pay a 15% privilege tax on its gross revenue.
At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we object to online poker for many of the same reasons that we objected to casino expansion. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.” Gambling is an unhealthy, addictive behavior that has devastated the lives of many individuals and families. The gambling industry encourages and glamorizes this addictive behavior. Rather than attempting to “get rich quick” by gambling, men and women should provide for themselves and their families through honest work. Furthermore, the State of New York should not seek to line its coffers by linking arms with predatory enterprises.