New York Takes A Gamble On Casino Expansion

If Albany has its way, full scale casino gambling may be headed to New York this November. In a long, drawn out process, the state legislature managed to pass a proposed amendment to the State’s constitution to allow casino gambling, which is currently forbidden by law. The measure is going up for public vote, so it’s up to all of you this November 5th to approve or deny the measure.

Casino gambling will likely conjure one of two images in your head: the glamorous, glitzy Atlantic City/Las Vegas style boardwalk, or the image of people spending money they don’t even have. And while there may be some positives, legalizing casinos isn’t the magic solution that lawmakers are pushing it as. In reality, it’s more complicated.

Governor Cuomo and the gambling industry proclaim that pushing for casinos will bring jobs and more tax revenue to the state. Questions about those jobs—how many, what types—have been answered in mostly vaguely terms by casinos advocates. Apparently, there will be a lot and many different types, respectively. Critics of gambling believe that most of the jobs created will be either short term construction jobs of low wage service jobs, like cocktail waitresses and janitors.

The question is, will these jobs and any increases in tourism as a result of these casinos help the communities where these casinos will be located? Will these potential gains offset the potential social costs stemming from increased gambling addiction and a higher rates of bankruptcies? It’s hard to know for sure.

There’s already a few limited forms of gambling in New York. Racetrack casinos, also known as racinos, are what their name implies—sets of gambling machines that are located next to racetracks. Business at these racinos has been growing steadily, with last year’s revenues reaching $1.83 billion, a 22% increase from the year prior. $823 million in tax dollars has been collected and used for the State’s education budget as well, according to the New York Gaming Association, a pro-gambling advocacy group.

Since we already have some forms of gambling, why not go all the way, argue gambling proponents. But how many more casinos do we need, and at what point do we stop? Granted, the proposed bill will only allow for up to 7 new casinos, but if the legislation passes, Albany could come up with a way allow even more casinos in the state.  Do we want New York to reach a point where it’s dependent on gambling to finds its education budget?

The libertarian approach to all this is that as adults, we should be able to make our own choices with our money and what should happen to our communities. But as adults, we should also know that most people make lots of stupid choices too. If you’re planning to vote on Election Day, think about what you want your community to look like. The idea of having the excitement of Atlantic City or Vegas brought to New York might sound tantalizing, but would you actually want to live in a place like that 24/7?

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