Finally, a newspaper starts to raise some questions regarding Gov. Cuomo’s flimsy proposal to legalize commercial casinos. Kudos to the Albany Times Union for its strong editorial regarding the disingenuous way Cuomo and the legislative leaders in Albany have gone about trying to change the state Constitution in order to allow up to seven casinos across the state.
“Crossing one’s fingers and hoping for the best rarely works out well at the blackjack table. It’s not a particularly good way to make laws, either,” said the Times Union, while noting Cuomo’s “disdain” for public debate.
One of the reasons why politicians can disregard voters and do as the please is the lack of a vigorous press that all too often plays the role of lapdog rather than watchdog. (A largely unengaged public is also to blame.) That’s what makes the Time Union’s editorial all the more welcome.
Albany’s newspaper of record raises a number of basic questions that have gone unanswered as Cuomo and other maneuver – mostly behind closed doors – to hammer out a casino deal. For starters, where will the casinos be located? Will local communities have any say in whether or not they want a casino? What is the tax rate for the casino revenue? Will the local communities get any of the revenue?
There are many other questions the paper did not raise. Changing the state Constitution is no small matter. Adding widespread gambling across the state impacts every resident, and creates economic and socials costs. Lawmakers and voters should know what those costs are before moving forward with such a major policy change.
At the very least, Cuomo should answer the many questions. There should be a public debate. The legislature should hold public hearings. An independent cost-benefit analysis should be done to determine if it is even wise to move forward with a major expansion of gambling.
The fact that Cuomo has not provided any information should be an indication why adding more casinos is a bad bet for New York. The public should demand some answers before any votes are taken.
Tags: Albany Times Union, casinos, gambling, Gov. Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may delay a statewide vote for commercial casinos because he fears a large turnout of city voters for this year’s mayoral race will reject the measure.
What do New York City voters know that upstate voters don’t?
Perhaps city voters are not bamboozled by the casino hype. Perhaps they better understand the social and economic ills that come with casinos, including more crime, divorce, bankruptcy and suicide. Perhaps they have seen that casinos have not helped struggling cities like Detroit, Philadelphia or Atlantic City. Or perhaps they don’t want cheesy casinos invading a world class city.
As usual, the public remains left out of the policy debate regarding casinos. Cuomo and other key political leaders spent the day behind closed doors discussing casino strategy. Rest assured Cuomo and his casino cronies have poll tested a casino vote this year against 2014. Just like the casinos that stack the odds in their favor, Cuomo seems to like his chances better in 2014.
Cuomo has already tried to mislead the public by initially proposing three casinos located upstate. They could tamp down opposition in the city. But if casinos are approved, the operators are going to push hard to locate in and around the five boroughs – especially in the lucrative market of Manhattan.
But having the casino measure on the 2014 ballot could complicate Cuomo’s reelection bid – especially if any opponent highlight how gambling is not economic development. In addition, casino operators in Connecticut, Atlantic City and Indian casinos in New York appear poised to fund a major campaign to keep casinos out of New York – not because of the negative impact of gambling but because they fear the competition. It should make for an interesting election.
Tags: Atlantic City, casinos, Connecticut, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Indian, New York
Lawmakers and casino operators tout new gambling halls as a way to attract tourists and boost the economy. But a sports columnist in Canada argues against adding a casino in Toronto because they are a “dime a dozen.”
“Where’s the uniqueness? Where’s the lure to tourists when practically every American already has a casino nearby?” writes Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star.
Perkins points out that many casinos lose money. Others are in business with gangsters. And the arguments by lawmakers are prepared by casino lobbyists.
“Despite claims a casino is a cash cow, many of them lose money,” Perkins writes. He pointed out that Caesar’s posted a fourth-quarter loss of some $500 million and MGM has a dubious history. “Do a little Internet digging and look at the way it went about trying to get into business with the notorious Stanley Ho and his daughter Pansy in Macau. Google the words ‘New Jersey special report Pansy Ho Macau’ and pull up a chair. Read it and then say you want to do business with this company.
“Locally, politicians have the debate framed for them by paid lobbyists working for casino companies who are so honest they do things like run phantom “job fairs” for positions that don’t actually exist.”
Another story out of Canada points out that officials pointed to increased crime problems from casinos a decade ago. But now new officials pushing for a casino dismiss crime issues.
Tags: casinos, crime, Dave Perkins, Toronto, tourism
Kudos to the Chicago Tribune for accurately describing what is to come if Illinois moves forward with its latest proposal to allow casinos.
In a strongly-worded editorial, The Tribune said the plan is “Worse than we thought.” The editorial is written as an open letter to officials in charge of the casino proposal. In one paragraph, the newspaper sums up the many the problems with the measure:
“This latest immense and cannily crafted bill would allow the number of Illinois casinos to grow from 10 to 23, and perhaps 24. We understand that Sen. Cullerton is curious about Mr. Bilek’s observation in our editorial that passage of this 555-page monstrosity is ‘an open door to political corruption and organized crime.’ ”
Don’t stop reading there. The editorial goes on to detail a number of other problems with the bill. Read it here. The editorial doesn’t even get into the social and economic costs of casino gambling. But there are enough problems with the bill as written for Gov. Quinn to once again do the right thing and veto this bill.
Tags: casinos, Chicago Tribune, gambling, Gov. Quinn, organized crime, political corruption
The competition to lure gamblers to lose money at casinos in heating up in Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware.
The largest casino in Maryland will introduce blackjack, craps, roulette and other table games next week and stay open around the clock. The moves are expected to keep many Maryland gamblers from traveling to West Virginia and Delaware.
The expanded casino in Maryland is just latest example of the increased competition for gambling dollars. As more and more states legalize casinos, they are finding there is a limited number of gamblers to go around.
The competition also shows how casinos do not attract tourists, but instead depend on repeat local gamblers. Ed Sutor, president and chief executive of Dover Downs in Delaware, said 50 percent of his business comes from Maryland residents. Many of those gamblers live near the Maryland Live casino in Maryland.
Delaware’s slots revenue is already down 25 percent from five years ago, thanks to increased competition from area states. The Maryland Live casinos threatens to hurt business even further, prompting Delaware casino operators to seek tax breaks from lawmakers.
The upshot is – as a result of increased competition – many states can’t depend on gambling as a steady or growing source of revenue. As a result, the states are being forced to reduce taxes, which reduces the amount of revenue the states take in. Like addicted gamblers, state lawmakers are being forced to chase their losses.
Tags: casinos, Delaware, Dover Downs, gambling, Maryland, Maryland Live!, West Virginia
One of the inherent conflicts of gambling is that the more citizens lose, the more tax revenue the state takes in. Here’s another troubling conflict: the casinos fund the treatment for problem gamblers.
Maybe that is why you never hear much from the gambling treatment centers about how casinos and state lotteries are the driving force behind gambling addiction. The treatment centers are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them. The only way the treatment centers grow is if they get more funding to treat more problem gamblers.
Even more problematic, casinos often target problem gamblers, who can account for as much as 60 percent of the slots revenue. Worse still, lawmakers often divert the funding to treat problem gamblers to the general fund, leaving less money to help those in need. Not to mention, the amount of money that is set aside to treat problem gamblers is often tiny to begin with.
In Massachusetts, the $1.8 the state earmarked to help problem gamblers was slashed by $500,000 later in the fiscal year, according to this report. The cutbacks come as Massachusetts gears up to open commercial casinos, creating a likely surge in problem gamblers. That what has happened in other states. Other states have cut funding for treatment in recent years, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The cutbacks come as more states legalize casinos, creating more opportunity for gambling addiction. According to a report by PBS: “In Louisiana, four years after the state legalized casinos and slots, a study found that seven percent of adults had become addicted to gambling. In Minnesota, as 16 Indian casinos opened across the state, the number of Gamblers Anonymous groups shot up for one to 49.
It is a safe bet that as New York looks to legalize commercial casinos, there will not be much help for problem gamblers despite claims by lawmakers to do all they can to help the addicts they will create.
Tags: casinos, funding, gambling addiction, Massachusetts, New York, treatment
Those who support casinos should keep an eye on the gambling industry evolution currently playing out in West Virginia.
First the casino industry spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying fees in order to get state lawmakers to legalize gambling. (In some instances, lawmakers get busted for corruption and go to jail.) Then the casinos open and everyone is happy as the states enjoy a spike in tax revenue from the casinos and create some jobs. But the revenue doesn’t do much to lower taxes, improve education or any of the other promised reasons lawmakers used to rationalize their support for gambling in the first place. Often the projections of gambling windfalls are wrong.
Then casinos open in neighboring states and gamblers begin to get tapped out, causing the tax revenue to level off or drop. (See Pennsylvania, Indiana and Atlantic City.) Some casinos are forced to lay off workers. Then the casino industry and their high-powered lobbyists go back to lawmakers seeking lower taxes and fees. Since money talks, the lawmakers jump. The taxes and fees are lowered leaving the state with less tax revenue. But the profit margins increase for the casino owners. And isn’t all that matters?
West Virginia has been hurt by increased competition from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland, which have all opened casinos in recent years. So to help the struggling casinos in West Virginia, lawmakers there slashed the taxes and fees they pay by nearly $30 million a year. Lawmakers also allowed the casinos that operate at racetracks to scale back on racing. Never mind the reason, the reason casinos were first legalized there was supposedly to support the racing industry.
This is the playbook the casino industry follows in state after state. (See similar deal in Delaware. Gambling interests are working to lower taxes in New York as lawmakers there debate legalizing commerical casinos.) As more and more states, legalize casinos, one sure bet is that this life cycle will continue to play out. One big difference: As the gambling market becomes more saturated, there will be less time between the boom and bust. The upshot is lots of loser and a state hooked on gambling.
Tags: casinos, Delaware, gambling, lawmakers, lobbying, lower taxes, New York, West Virginia
We did a post last week detailing how casinos were not paying off as expected for many states. Now here comes more evidence that there are not enough gamblers to fill all of the casinos that have opened in recent years.
Revenues were down 9 percent at casinos in Mississippi. The amount of money the state pulled in from the casinos was the lowest it has been since 1997.
The decrease in revenue was blamed in part by increased competition from casinos in Arkansas. The weak economy was also blamed. Revenues were down almost 8 percent at a casino in Illinois. Revenues were also down at the two large Indian casinos in Connecticut. Even Las Vegas and Atlantic City recently saw a big drop in revenues.
The drop in revenues does not bode well for other states, like New York and Massachusetts, that are scrambling to get in the casino game. While those states may do well when the casinos first open, history shows the revenue numbers will eventually trail off, forcing states to do more to replace the unsustainable casino revenues. The growing casino glut is adding to the problems for many states.
Tags: Arkansas, casinos, competition, Illinois, Las Vegas, Mississippi, New Jersey, revenues decline, states
The current spread of casinos across many states is bad enough. Just wait until states start pushing online gambling. This is the next big wave in gambling expansion, as The New York Times details here. (Sadly, the Times story fails to point out the downsides of online gambling and only makes a glancing reference to opposition.)
Just consider that many gamblers already visit local casinos an average of three to five times a week, or more than 250 times a year. Many spend hours at the casinos. So just wait until folks can gamble whenever and wherever they want, via their iPads, laptops and mobile phones. That’s when gambling addiction will explode into the mainstream, especially among younger people and even teens.
It will aslo push gambling problems into the middle and upper classes. Those two groups largely eschew casinos, which are populated mostly by poor, elderly, working class and minority residents. But online gambling will likely attract college students and other younger gamblers who already spend hours online.
Facebook, MySpace and other online operators are already laying the foundation for online gambling. Other tech operators are also poised to jump in, backed by hedge funds and Wall Street.
Years from now when reporters and historians go back to examine what went wrong, they will find the federal government is to blame. Just before Christmas 2011, the Justice Department quietly reversed itself and released a legal opinion lifting its longstanding ban in Internet gambling. The opinion was written in September but the Justice Department waited until Christmas to release it. The move opened the door for the virtual casinos coming soon to every house and mobile phone.
Tags: casinos, Facebook, gambling addiciton, Justice Department, MySpace, online gambling, states, virtual casinos
First it was seven casinos and a giant convention center next to a racetrack in Queens. Then it was a phased in plan starting with three casinos located in upstate New York to help struggling regions. Make that four casinos upstate. Now, it’s casinos wherever lawmakers want.
When it comes to shaping New York’s gambling policy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears to be playing roulette. Spin the wheel and see what umber comes up. Initially, Cuomo said the state was already in the gambling business but he planned to do it right. It turns out that Cuomo’s version of what is right is more like a game of three card monte.
In just one year Cuomo’s casino vision has changed four times. Five if you count that he never even mentioned adding casinos when he ran for governor. It is likley Cuomo’s casino plan will keep changing as competing gambling interests flood Albany with campaign contributions and lobby lawmakers in secret. It is all part of the mad scramble by casino operators to get a slice of New York’s gambling pie.
The process is often ugly and has no rhyme or reason. Money and power trump common sense. Thoughtful study and analysis are no where to be found. Same goes for the social and economic costs of the state pushing more gambling as a way to fund the government. When it comes to changing the Constitution to legalize casinos in New York, Cuomo and fellow Albany lawmakers are playing a backroom game of craps.
Tags: Albany, casinos, convention center, craps, gambling, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Queens, upstate