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.”

New York Post: No to Casinos

October 29, 2013 4:12 pm

It is rare the editorial boards at The New York Times and The New York Post agree on anything, let alone a major public policy issue. But within the past few days, both the Times and Post have come out against changing the state constitution to legalize casinos in New York.

The Post editorial board said the proposal to change the state constitution to allow casinos was a “bad bet for many reasons.” The Post pointed to the rigged language on the ballot that claims several dubious benefits without mentioning the costs. The Post rightly said casinos are a regressive tax on the poor and pointed to the lack of economic benefits from gambling.

“If the governor wants to revitalize New York, let’s not do it by taxing those who can least afford it. Let’s do it the old-fashioned way: by building an economy that encourages thrift, investment and enterprise,” The Post said. Read the full editorial here:

Meanwhile, The Times also urged voters to reject the casino measure that is on the Nov. 5 ballot. The Times cited many of the same reasons as the Post. Read the full editorial here:

The fact that both papers – with such differing political views on many issues – agree that casinos are bad for New York speaks volumes about how misguided the effort is to change the constitution in order to enable more residents to gamble.

Casino industry lackey

October 28, 2013 9:44 am

Here is some insight into how the casino industry has made New York lawmakers - including Gov. Andrew Cuomo - swoon. Just read this over-the-top love letter to the Resorts World racino in Queens written by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens):

Or perhaps that should be Sen. Addabbo (D-Resorts World).

The Resorts World public relations office couldn’t produce such shameless drivel and still maintain a straight face. But Sen. Addabbo manages to prattle on about the benefits of the Queens racino as if was the second-coming of General Electric or Apple. What an embarrassment.

Sen. Addabbo’s shameless piece describes Resorts World as an “anchor for local business” and a “pillar.” But Sen. Addabbo cites no economic data to support any of his claims other than the racino jobs, a new subway station built to funnel gamblers to the racino, and a blood drive the racino hosted. How ironic, considering the racino is expert at also bleeding gamblers dry of their money.

So why the love affair with casinos by New York lawmakers? Here’s one reason: Gambling interests have spent $59 million in New York on lobbying and campaign contributions since 2005. If New Yorkers vote to legalize commercial casino on Nov. 5, look for even more money to flow to lawmakers in Albany, including Sen. Addabbo.

Here’s my response to Sen. Addabbo’s pathetic op-ed. Thanks to the New York Daily News for publishing it:

The New York Times: No to casinos

October 25, 2013 9:17 am

The last great American newspaper explains why New York does not need more casinos.

In a fiercely-reasoned editorial, The New York Times urges residents to vote no in the Nov. 5 referendum seeking to change the state constitution to allow commercial casinos. Read the editorial here:

The same arguments can be made against the spread of casinos in other states. The Times cites a number of compelling reasons – backed by studies and the historical record – why governments should not be in the business of enabling casinos: Gambling is regressive. The tax bonanza is fleeting. Casinos hurt existing businesses. Home prices near casinos decrease.

The Times points to the failure of casinos in Atlantic City: “The percentage of people below the poverty line there has increased to 29.3 percent from 22.5 percent in four decades. The unemployment rate is at about 18 percent, and the crime rate is almost three times that of the surrounding county.”

The Times also points to the failure of Gov. Cuomo to make the case for more gambling: “Mr. Cuomo has not successfully made the case that casinos will provide long-term benefits.”

Big Casino .vs Shoe Leather

October 22, 2013 9:21 am

In the push to legalize casinos in New York, deep-pocketed casino interests have money and the political backing of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But a small band of casino opponents are making their case via “good arguments and shoe leather,” said David Blankenhorn, the president of the Institute for American Values, which supports this blog. See the story in the New York Times here:

The IAV has issued three reports that make the case against casinos. The group has also participated in debates, written a number of newspaper op-eds and met with editorial boards. Last week, the IAV smashed a slot machine outside the Capitol in Albany to raise awareness about the issue and draw attention to the report. Other casino critics have joined in as well.

At the same time, Gov. Cuomo cut deals with other gambling interests – including the Indian casinos and the horse racing industry – to keep them from opposing casinos. It was a shrewd political move, but the governor has yet to make the case to voters as to why the state suddenly needs to change the constitution to allow casinos. There have been no public hearings, no cost-benefit studies and no community forums by the Cuomo administration. Instead, the Cuomo administration added rosy wording to the referendum in an attempt to mislead voters into thinking casinos are good for the state.

Despite the heavy-handed tactics, polls show voters are divided over whether to legalize casinos. In fact, once voters take the time to study the issue their opposition to casinos grows.

The casino debate winner is…

October 21, 2013 9:01 am

This may help explain why Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other casino supporters have avoided public hearings, debates or independent studies that examine the true costs and benefits of allowing more gambling in New York.

At a debate in Syracuse last week, a slight majority of people who turned out said they were against legalizing casinos. After the debate ended, nearly twice as many of the attendees said they were opposed to casinos. In other words, the more residents learned about casinos, the less they favored them. See the link here:

Cuomo and other casino supporters have only discussed the benefits, and not the costs. For the most part, the discussion has been mostly muted. Even then, the figures have been rosy at best and not based on much independent scrutiny.

The problem is the economic and social costs of casinos outweigh the benefits. Rather than examine the costs, Cuomo and others have ignored or downplayed them. But once voters take the time to examine the issue, they understand that casinos are a bad deal.

Slot-smashing good time

October 16, 2013 10:27 am

It was a perfect day to smash a slot machine in Albany. David Blankenhorn and others smashed a slot machine outside the Capitol yesterday to raise awareness about the research that shows casinos do more harm than good.

The smashing was also done to underscore the point that there was a time when elected officials opposed the spread of gambling. Real leaders like legendary Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia crusaded against slot machines, which he called “mechanical pickpockets.”

Slot machines are still mechanical pickpockets. If anything, today’s computerized slot machines are sophisticated devices that are even more addictive. But what has changed is that elected officials like Gov. Andrew Cuomo – backed by large campaign contributions from gambling interests – are actively working to legalize slot machines.

So rather than protect citizens from the harms of gambling, Cuomo and others want to use individuals’ gambling losses of to help fund the government. The smashing received a lot of media coverage. Here are just some of the links for your viewing and reading pleasure:

David .vs Goliath: Blankenhorn challenges Cuomo to a debate

October 14, 2013 7:07 am

David Blankenhorn has challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a debate about casinos.

Blankenhorn is the author of “New York’s Promise: Why Sponsoring Casinos is a Regressive Policy Unworthy of a Great State.” (Read it here: Meanwhile, Cuomo is leading the effort to change New York’s constitution to legalize casinos.

The state constitution prohibits casinos but a referendum is on the Nov. 5 ballot that, if approved, would clear the way for New York to allow up to seven casinos.

Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, which supports this blog, believes it is wrong for states to try to fund government operations off of the backs of gamblers. He wrote an op-ed in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (read it here: in which he offers to debate Cuomo about the costs and benefits of casinos in order to “help New Yorkers reach an informed decision on this important question of public policy.”

No word if Cuomo will engage in a debate. But don’t hold your breath.

Great political leaders smash slot machines

October 11, 2013 9:57 am

What is the difference between a great political leader like former New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia and current Gov. Andrew Cuomo?

One smashed slot machines, the other wants to legalize them.

David Blankenhorn and other civic leaders plans to go to Albany on Tuesday to honor LaGuardia by smashing a slot machine outside the Capitol.

The event will honor the leadership of LaGuardia, who helped rid the city of slot machines in the 1930s in part by smashing the “mechanical pickpockets” with a sledgehammer. By comparison, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other elected leaders of the state want to change the state constitution in order to legalize slot machines and spread more gambling across the state.

Blankenhorn explains why legalizing casinos remains a bad public policy for New York and other states in a powerful op-ed in the New York Daily News. (See link here: The op-ed is an offshoot of the book Blankenhorn wrote that frames the issue well and explains the difference between today’s political leadership and LaGuardia’s. (See the link to that piece here:

Casino benefits – and costs

October 8, 2013 10:39 am

Casino supporters in New York tout the tax revenue that will come from casinos but do not know the true costs of more gambling.

The Albany Times Union used the recent study by the Institute for American Values to point out some of the costs. The Times Union summarized the report this way: “Problem gambling is more widespread than many casino industry leaders claim. The problem gamblers frequently go to a casino, and their lives and livelihoods may be adversely affected by their betting. They are not necessarily the heavy gamblers who are pathological and who suffer from increasing preoccupations to gamble and a loss of control.”

A spokesman for the American Gaming Association disputed the findings but offered no independent figures to dispute the report. Indeed, the AGA spokesman could not estimate how much a casino’s revenues of come from problem gamblers. The IAV report pointed to studies that found anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of casino revenues come from problem gamblers.

The AGA spokesman said that most of the casino revenues are from “whales” — big gamblers who can afford their spending. The spokesman may want to take a walk through the casinos in Atlantic City, the slots parlor in Queens or any of the other convenience casinos that have opened in a number of state across the country.

The casinos are filled with most elderly, minority and working class gamblers. Several casinos in the Philadelphia area reported that their customers come an average of three to five times a week. There are not many whales to be found. But there are plenty of low-rollers.