A week ago Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he may delay a vote on legalizing casinos in New York. He scrapped that idea yesterday and said he would push for a public referendum in November to amend the constitution to allow commercial casinos.
Cuomo’s plan calls for initially limiting the casinos to upstate. Five years later the state would add casinos in New York City and elsewhere. What a half baked idea.
The problem is Cuomo views casinos as economic development. Casinos – like baseball stadiums – do not attract spin-off business or generate other spending. In fact, casinos do just the opposite. Casinos divert spending from other local businesses and strip wealth from a region.
To be sure, casinos generate tax revenue for the state. Maybe Cuomo considers that eceonomic development. But the idea that casinos will help revitalize economically distressed cities and towns is laughable. Take a look at how little impact 30 years of casinos has had on Atlantic City. Not to mention, casinos bring about even more social and economic costs to a region. In effect, casinos are a net negative.
Cuomo’s plan gets even goofier in five years when, under his proposal, the state would allow casinos in New York City and elsewhere. Those casinos would lure gamblers away and undermine the casinos upstate, leaving upstate struggling. This make no sense.
To be sure, Cuomo’s decision to push for a casino vote in November is really all about politics and when is the best time to get the measure passed. He has determined that 2014 offers the best chance to win. By limiting the casinos to upstate at least at first, Cuomo hopes the big number of New York City residents expected to turn out for the November mayoral election will not be as exercised about a casino issue upstate. He also doesn’t want the casino issue on the ballot next year when he is running for reelection.
Even still, polls show about half the state opposes casinos. So either way, it is likely to be a close vote.