November 6, 2013

New York to Expand Casinos in Effort to Bolster Economy

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New York State voters approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday that will allow the state to have up to seven more casinos.

The amendment, which is intended to revitalize the economy and create employment in upstate New York, passed 57 to 43 percent, with a majority of precincts in the state voting on the bill.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) lauded the amendment, saying the expansion of casinos will create revenue for the state, open up job opportunities and bring tourists into New York, according to the New York Times.

Tioga Downs, a racetrack less than an hour away from Ithaca, will be applying for a license in the Southern Tier region. According to a Tioga Downs press release, the racetrack also plans to build a 136-room hotel and to expand its gaming floor.

Not all were happy about the amendment. Alderperson Ellen McCollister ’78 (D-3rd Ward) said casinos do not benefit the economy.

“The alleged economic benefits of casino gambling –– job creation and extra tax money for schools –– are not borne out for most communities. Most gamblers are lured in by the slot machines and never venture out to patronize local stores, restaurants and hotels,” McCollister said in an email. “There’s nothing of value created in goods and services. It’s just false promises, a race to the bottom, economically and socially.”

Reneta McCarthy, a senior lecturer at the School of Hotel Administration, cautioned that the proposal might not live up to its promises.

“While I am no expert, I am pretty sure that we will not see the type of economic boost and revitalization of the areas that have been promised,” McCarthy said in an email. “I do think that what we have witnessed is how well-financed interests and lobbyist can push a state to embrace an industry that promises tax relief, jobs and campaign contributions.”

In an editorial for The New York Times, Prof. Robert Frank, economics, also voiced concern about the casino amendment, but for different reasons than McCarthy — Frank pointed to the social costs of casinos, which he said outweigh their economic benefits.

“Casinos and gambling can lead to severe gambling addiction, and this causes destruction for these people and their families,” Frank said. “The results are ultimately ugly, and this is costly for society.”

Prof. Steven Carvell, associate dean for academic affairs for the hotel school, said that those costs should not prevent people from being able to gamble at casinos.

“The majority of people will not have a problem with gambling,” Carvell said. Gambling and gaming should be seen as a form of entertainment, Carvell said.

“Spending $200 at the casino should not be seen as any different than spending hundreds of dollars to see The Lion King on Broadway,” he said.