What the smart money says about casinos

November 4, 2013 11:34 am

In a hotly contested race like legalizing casinos in New York, it is worth noting what the leading newspaper editorial boards have to say about the issue.

The New York Times makes the most compelling case against casinos.  Interestingly, the New York Post agrees with The Times: It is not often those two papers are on the same page, which is telling. This must be a bad idea on all fronts.

A number of other leading newspapers urge residents to vote no against casinos, including The Albany Times Union, The Syracuse Post-Dispatch and The Watertown Daily Times. Each paper makes a thoughtful and well-reasoned case against casinos.

What is even more compelling are the papers in support of casinos. Those editorials struggle to make the case for casinos and lack common sense and logic. In doing so, the editorials actually underscore why commercial casinos would be bad for the state.

The New York Daily News said casinos are a lousy way for government to raise money and will lead to more addiction, but vote yes anyway. Uh?

The Poughkeepsie Journal called the casino ballot language “one-sided” and said the state played “fast and loose with this issue,” while failing to mention the “legitimate concerns.” Keep in mind, this is an editorial in support of casinos.

Newsday actually praised Cuomo’s crass politics and secret deal-making. But then added this gem as part of its, ah, casino support: “It’s not that there isn’t plenty to oppose in both the gambling expansion and the way it’s been handled. The casinos may not provide as much upstate revitalization as hoped. They would inevitably increase the number of problem gamblers where they are located.”

With casino supporters like this, who needs an informed opposition?

TV ad: Cuomo’s dad dissed casinos

November 1, 2013 9:46 am

A group opposed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to change the state constitution to legalize commercial casinos launched a TV ad that uses Cuomo’s father to make their case.

In the ad, a narrator recounts what former Gov. Mario Cuomo once said about casinos:

“There is a respectable body of economic thought that holds that casino gambling is actually economically regressive to a state and a community. Casinos are a whole different breed. It changes communities. It does not generate wealth, it just redistributes it.”

The ad then says: “Mario Cuomo didn’t support changing the New York State constitution to allow Las Vegas-style casinos. He knew gambling was a bad bet for New York. Vote with Cuomo. Vote ‘no’ on Proposition 1.” See the ad here.

The Cuomo administration immediately responded by getting Cuomo’s dad to essentially reject his position.

“I made those statements in 1994. A great deal has changed in 20 years,” Mario Cuomo said in a statement. “The New York that I was dealing with was a different place. We didn’t have casinos on every border. Gaming was only in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Today couldn’t be more different . . . New York is surrounded by states that have casino gaming – and casinos are a short drive from anywhere in the state. So New York has to compete with out of state gaming.”

The group that released the ad responded to Mario Cuomo’s comments.

“What hasn’t changed since 1994 is the fact that casino gambling continues to be a form of regressive taxation - and casino gambling ‘changes communities’ for the worse. What also hasn’t changed is that casinos take advantage of those who can least afford it. That’s why everyone from The New York Times to the New York Post, to the head of the Conservative Party to stalwart progressive elected officials like State Senator Liz Krueger, urge a NO vote on Proposal 1,” a spokesman for the Committee Against Proposition 1 said.

Unlike his thoughtful father, Andrew Cuomo made clear that he is now forever “linked” to casino gambling. Despite never mentioning casinos while campaigning for governor, Andrew Cuomo made casinos the cornerstone of his economic agenda just months after getting elected.

As a result, there is a lot riding on the Nov. 5 casino vote for Cuomo. That’s why Cuomo cut a variety of deals with competing gambling interests and rigged the wording on the ballot referendum. Polls showed voters were divided on casinos, but support increased after voters saw the rigged language on the referendum.

Fred Dicker of the New York Post wrote recently that Cuomo was worried about losing the casino vote, feeling that his “personal prestige” was on the line.

Note to Andrew Cuomo: There is nothing prestigious about pushing a regressive business that does not produce anything; does not generate new spending; takes advantage of vulnerable citizens; has a corrupting influence of government and gets a third or more of its revenue from repeat and problem gamblers.

There was a time when a smart governor named Mario Cuomo knew that.

Casinos in NY: a sucker’s bet

October 30, 2013 4:02 pm

E. J. McMahon, the president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, details the real impact – of lack of – from the proposal to change the state constitution in order to allow up to seven casinos in New York.

Here’s his conclusion: “The pro-casino campaign is at least confirming one old adage: There’s a sucker born every minute.”

McMahon explains how little impact casinos will have on the state, despite the claims by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other gambling supporters. “A large majority of New York City residents think the non-Indian gambling casinos authorized by Proposal One on next week’s statewide ballot will bring in ‘significant new revenue for New York state and local governments,’ according to a New York Times-Siena poll released Tuesday,” he wrote in the New York Post. “If they’re voting “yes” on that basis, they’re in for a rude awakening.”

NY lawmakers fight over who will handle casino dealing

January 29, 2013 3:53 pm

Lawmakers spend little to no time weighing the social and economic costs of more casinos. Instead, the real political fight is over which lawmakers will get control over whacking up the lucrative gambling pie.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants one of the state agencies he controls to determine where the proposed casinos will be located. But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wants the legislature to have input on selecting the locations. Either way creates the potential for conflicts of interests and backscratching, or worse. That’s because the pols all know that the power that comes with making such a lucrative decision can translate into huge political benefits, including campaign contributions.

Of course, Cuomo or the legislature have yet to conduct an independent cost-benefit analysis to consider the real impact of more gambling. Not to mention, the legislature hasn’t even had a second vote on approving the casinos. And voters have yet to go to the polls to decide if they want to change the state Constitution to allow commercial casinos. But already the lawmakers are salivating over the wheeling and dealing that will take place in the backrooms of Albany over who gets a coveted casino license and where it is located.

Cuomo has proposed three casinos be located somewhere upstate. He did not comment on where the remaining four casinos would go. Cuomo wants to appoint a new commission to determine where the casinos will go. Silver wants the legislature to have input.

New York Post columnist Fredric Dicker ripped Silver for demanding that “politically-chosen lawmakers” decide where the casinos are located. Dicker quotes an unnamed source saying: “This could be worth tens of millions of dollars in fees to lobbyists from gaming interests across the country, and it could make that much more money for many of Shelly’s friends.”

This is no defense of Silver, but i is worth noting that Dicker failed to mention the same thing could be said of allowing Cuomo to control the casino process. In fact, a group with ties to Cuomo received $2 million from gambling interests last year as The New York Times reported. Recall that Cuomo never even mentioned casinos or gambling when he was running for governor. But he suddenly got interested in the idea as the money started flowing in from gambling.

Of course, Dicker failed to mention that he has a deal to write a book with Cuomo’s. So don’t look for Fred to criticize the governor’s handling of the casino dealings that have been going on for the past year – and are just getting started.

Casinos gone wild

September 7, 2012 1:53 pm

This blog usually avoids the gossip items found on, say, Page Six of the New York Post. But hey, it is Friday. And the long-running legal battle between Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn and ‘Girls Gone Wild’ impresario Joe Francis is just too rich to pass up.

Wynn and Francis have been locked in legal battles for four years. Like many disagreements involving rich guys with giant egos, the latest lawsuit centers around money. Wynn claims Francis owes him money. Francis says Wynn threatened to kill him.

Francis said in 2010 Wynn threatened  to “hit me in the back of the head with a shovel and bury me in the desert” — the sort of “terrible lie,” Wynn denied the allegation and testified this week, that such a comment could damage his reputation and that of his gambling empire.

That’s right, Joe. Wynn is trying to run an upstanding gambling business in Las Vegas. Albeit one that profits by separating gamblers from their money. Wynn’s casino company is under investigation for violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act, for potential bribery issues in China. The last thing Wynn needs is a porn purveyor claiming he tried to have him whacked.

The legal fight would be funny if it didn’t underscore the types of characters casinos often associate with. In fact, casinos have long been known to attract mobsters and other sleazy characters. The dispute with Francis is just the latest chapter.

Cuomo deals Genting an inside straight?

January 6, 2012 9:35 am

It looks like the backroom dealing has already begun in Albany in the effort to legalize commercial casinos across the state. The New York Post reported that in return for building a convention center in Queens, the Malaysian-based casino giant Genting wants Gov. Cuomo to guarantee it the exclusive casino rights in New York City.

That would be quite a coup for Genting, given the vast wealth and population in the Big Apple. It would also explain why Genting would agree to build a convention center next to a so-called racino in Queens that it already owns. The last thing Genting wants is to spend big bucks on a convention center in Queens only to see another casino open in a more lucrative market like Manhattan or Brooklyn. This inside deal, if true, would give Genting a casino monopoly in New York City – exactly want gambling operators want.

It also shows how Gov. Cuomo has been busy negotiating casino deals in the backroom of Albany in advance of any bill even getting introduced to legalize casinos. (Usually casino licenses get awarded through a bid process. But it sure helps a casino operator to know in advance if it essentially has the winning bid.)

Sadly, this is the same backroom process that has been followed in state after state once lawmakers decide to get in bed with casino companies. Look for more of the same in Albany.

Cuomo to go slow on casinos?

December 16, 2011 3:00 pm

Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not seem to be in a rush to legalize casinos, though he does seem confident he will be able to lead the effort to undo the state Constitution, which prohibits gambling. Changing the state Constitution is no small matter, but Cuomo seems to think that is more a pro forma event that could be completed in a year. There are good reasons why the Empire State’s forefathers banned gambling.

In an interview with influential New York Post columnist Fred Dicker, Cuomo skips over that and says casinos could be legalized before the end of his first term. Cuomo does seem to indicate that he knows gambling is a bad economic policy, but he also seems intent on following other states down the flawed path of legalizing casinos.

“In a perfect world, would there be gaming anywhere? Maybe not, but this is not a perfect world and we’re in competition, so all the signs have been positive, but you know, we’ll see next year,” he said. ”My thought for this year would be, let’s do our homework, and let’s talk about it, and let’s start to work on it, and let’s put together intelligent committees and do a real study for this year.”

Let’s hope Cuomo follows through on completing a “real study” that examines the pros and cons of casinos, and doesn’t just tout the tax revenue and jobs. Most state studies ignore the social and economic costs of casinos because the reality is the costs of casinos outweigh the benefits. Any study should be independent and weigh all the costs.