In 2012 and 2013, the New York State Legislature—with the strong support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo—approved a casino expansion amendment to the New York State Constitution. This action paved the way for the amendment to be placed on the 2013 general election ballot. The amendment, which was opposed by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and by our affiliate organization, New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation, allowed for up to seven new gambling casinos to operate on non-Indian lands in New York State. Unfortunately, the ballot language regarding the amendment was biased in favor of the amendment’s passage. In November 2013, voters approved the amendment by a substantial margin.
In recent days, upstate casino development on non-Indian lands moved a step closer to becoming reality. As expected, at a December 21 meeting, the New York State Gaming Commission granted state licenses to the proposed Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes region, the proposed Montreign Resort Casino in the Catskill Mountains, and the proposed Rivers Casino and Resort in the City of Schenectady. (A competing pro-casino group is expected to challenge the proposed Lago Casino and Resort in court.) The Commission’s issuance of the licenses sets the stage for construction to begin on these ill-advised projects. A fourth casino project—the proposed expansion of the Tioga Downs racino in the Southern Tier into a full-fledged casino—remains under review by the state.
Under the terms of the casino licenses, the State of New York stands to rake in substantial monies before the new casinos even open. Each of the 22 companies that applied for casino licenses was required to pay a $1 million application fee, although portions of some application fees were returned. In addition, the three new casinos are each expected to pay a $50 million license fee no later than March 31, 2016. Once the new casinos open, the state will levy substantial taxes on them as well. Unfortunately, while the state may profit from upstate casinos in the short term, the consequences of upstate casino development for addicted gamblers; families; crime rates neighborhoods located near the new casinos; and local businesses located near the new casinos will likely be less favorable. Given the glut of casinos in the northeastern United States, and given the unsavory and predatory nature of gambling casinos, it is quite possible that the new casinos will eventually become unprofitable as well.
By partnering with casino interests, New York State has taken a gamble with our state’s future. In the end, our state may learn the hard way that gambling is not a good idea.