Bishops question casinos in New York

September 30, 2013 9:37 am

New York’s Roman Catholic bishops voiced deep concern over the increased social costs that will come with more gambling if Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to legalize commercial casinos is approved.

In a statement released Sunday, the Bishops said the constitutional referendum facing voters on Nov. 5 is “an important matter affecting our communities.” The Bishops said in recent years the state has “dramatically increased access to legalized gambling in an effort to raise revenue,” including multi-state lotteries and creating several video lottery terminal facilities.

But those benefits come with social and economic costs. “Even if the state does realize economic benefits envisioned by our elected officials, we voters must also consider the potential for negative consequences,” the statement said.

A convert to the casino fight

September 27, 2013 9:44 am

Many thoughtful and well-educated people do not pay much attention to casinos. They don’t see gambling as a big deal. In their view, if fools want to gamble, let them.

But once smart and well-meaning people take the time to look at the true impact of casinos and the role governments play in encouraging citizens to gamble, they come away with a different view. That’s what happened with Carlo Rotella, director of American Studies and professor of English at Boston College.

Rotella wrote a strong column in the Globe explaining why he plans to sign a petition that is part of an effort to repeal the casino law in Massachusetts. “I’m convinced that casinos are bad for just about any community. It’s in my narrow self-interest to try to stop them even if nobody’s trying to build one in my town — if they’re bad for the state, they’re bad for my family — and I also feel a certain broader duty as a citizen, one neighbor among many,” Rotella wrote in a column titled “On second thought, repeal casinos.”

Rotella was motivated to change his mind in part by reading the recent report titled “Why Casinos Matter: Thirty-One Evidence-Based Propositions from the Health and Social Sciences” issued by 33 scholars and experts assembled by the Institute for American Values, which supports this blog.

“For me, the essence of their argument is that casinos tend to erode and destroy the social, economic, and political fabric of a community,” Rotella wrote.

Casino issue heats up

September 25, 2013 10:17 am

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is confident the casino referendum will pass – despite the state’s lack of independent study, debate or public hearing. But not everyone thinks more gambling is a good idea. A number of thought leaders have chimed in with powerful pieces, sparked in part by the recent report titled “Why Casinos Matter” that was published by the Institute for American Values, which sponsors this blog.

New York Times columnist Michael Powell wrote a compelling column where he interviewed a gambler who thinks more casinos is a mistake. “It’s a losing deal, casinos,” electrician Stu Litwin told Powell. “I’ll be honest, I should have my head examined for coming here. You really don’t want the whole city doing this.”

Powell found Litwin at the Resort World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, which he said “looks like an airport departure lounge mated with a pinball machine.”  He also likened the Cuomo camp’s rosy wording of the casino referendum promising jobs, lower property taxes and school funding as “Leonid Brezhnev Triumphal Style.”

CNN contributor David Frum chimed in with a column titled “The Harm that Casinos Do.” Frum wrote: “The impact of casinos on local property values is “unambiguously” negative, according to the National Association of Realtors. Casinos do not revive local economies. They act as parasites upon them. Communities located within 10 miles of a casino exhibit double the rate of problem gambling. Unsurprisingly, such communities also suffer higher rates of home foreclosure and other forms of economic distress and domestic violence.”

IAV President David Blankenhorn and former Rochester Mayor William Johnson also wrote an op-ed in the Albany Times Union that argues how casinos contribute to the gap inequality. “While casinos do not create wealth, they redistribute it, overwhelmingly from the have-nots to the haves. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other casino advocates often use terms such as ‘destination gaming resorts’ to describe them, but the label is highly misleading. Anyone who has actually visited America’s regional casinos knows that they are quite different from Vegas-style resort casinos.”

Cuomo and other casino supporters have avoided public discussion on the well-documented economic and social ills that come with casinos. As such, many voters are not well informed about casinos. But many thought leaders who have taken the time to examine the issue understand that casinos do more harm than good.

“The casino-government complex”

September 20, 2013 9:57 am

Kudos to Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson for detailing the growing partnership between state governments and gambling interests.

Of course, a special hat tip for inspiring the column goes to the recent report released by the Institute for American Values, which supports this blog site. The report pulls together a variety of research to provide an easy-to-read snapshot of the rapid growth in casinos by a number of states and explains why this is a bad public policy.

As Gerson points out, the spread of casinos is a bipartisan effort. However, the misguided gambling policy is something that should offend liberals, conservatives and libertarians alike.

It is worth reading the IAV’s report and Gerson’s column in full.

New York casino ballot’s rosy spin

September 16, 2013 9:52 am

From the start, the Cuomo administration has not leveled with the public about the full impact of casinos in New York. So why start now?

The proposed ballot measure that will be presented to voters in November says that changing the state Constitution to allow casinos will be “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.”

The Associated Press reported that Cuomo had a heavy hand in wordsmithing the ballot language. “Before it was recast by Cuomo and the Legislature, the referendum stated simply: ‘The purpose of the proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the constitution is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos. If approved, the amendment would permit commercial casino gambling in New York state,’ ” the AP’s Mike Gormley reported.

Polls indicate voters are evenly divided over legalizing casinos. So wording that promises jobs, lower taxes and more school funding could help tip the scales on Election Day.

Of course, there is no mention of the many social and economic costs that come with casinos. Studies show that casinos also result in increased crime, personal bankruptcy, divorce and suicide. Studies also show that those living close to casino have a increased chance of becoming a problem gambler. Still other studies have found that casinos also result in job losses at other existing businesses like restaurants and retailers that can’t compete. One study by Baylor University professor Earl Grinols found that every $1 casinos bring in results in $3 in increased social costs. (See here for other costs.)

But when it comes to casinos, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other gambling boosters usually oversell and under deliver. That’s what happens in other states that have legalized casinos. See Pennsylvania where many residents are still waiting for casinos to produce $1 billion in property tax relief.

A New York Daily News editorial said Cuomo is “not playing straight” with voters on casinos. “The forces pushing for expanded gambling in New York — including Gov. Cuomo — are  perverting the constitutional amendment process by putting what amounts to a  pro-casino campaign advertisement on the ballot this fall,” the Daily News editorial said. The New York Times said the wording should be simple and straightforward.

In addition to the disingenuous wording, Cuomo also placed the casino referendum at the top of the ballot to make sure voters don’t forget to vote for it. See a previous post on that maneuverer here. This is all part of the broader misleading campaign to ram the casino measure past the public without holding public hearings or conducting an independent cost-benefit analysis that measures the true impact of casinos.