To paraphrase a proverb, easy money is money easily lost. And there is no better way to quickly make-or lose-a bundle of cash than at a casino.
Whether it’s at the slot machines or at the craps table, Americans are doling out big bucks at casinos. In a 2011 report, gaming revenue in the U.S. exceeded $35 billion, supporting over 340,000 jobs and generating close to $8 billion in tax revenue for federal, state and local governments.
Resorts World New York at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park is regarded as the most successful slot parlor in the entire country, as gamblers fed over $650 million into its machines during the first half of last year alone. Elected officials and others have been quick to tout the casino as providing an economic boost not only to the economy in the way of jobs and tax revenue, but also the state’s racing industry.
There can be no doubt that casinos are cash cows, but it seems that too many in governments where gaming is legal focus solely on the positives of casinos rather than the negatives. All they see are bright lights and dollar signs.
Aside from the obvious drawbacks-addiction, crime, etc.- arguments have been made that casino gambling is a regressive tax set up in economically destitute areas, squeezing the last few nickels out of people with big dreams and small bank accounts.
In recent years, casino gambling has been regarded as the economic savior for former industrial boomtowns that have starved since the factories closed. One can find a symbol of this in Bethlehem, Pa., where a casino opened several years ago on the former site of the once-mighty Bethlehem Steel mill.
New York State lawmakers are seeking to amend the state constitution to expand casino gambling to include table games such as craps, blackjack, baccarat and roulette. The amendment calls for up to seven such casinos to be opened statewide. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated that the first three licenses would be used in upstate areas which, like Bethlehem, Pa., are former industrial strongholds that have suffered through decades of economic despair.
The Empire State has launched a number of programs aimed at boosting economic activity the right way-through investment in industry and technology that leads to job creation and tax revenue. Casinos do spur economic activity, but it’s cannibalistic in a sense, as it takes money primarily out of the pockets of people who are already here and struggling economically.
Everyone likes to take a chance every now and then and enjoy themselves. Recreational gambling is a fun experience for responsible people, but it can’t be used as a substitute for the traditional, solid means of economic development: blue-collar and white-collar jobs that give people a sure winning ticket of good paying work and a great quality of life.
The casino amendment requires passage by the Assembly and State Senate (which seems to be almost certain) and by the voters through a ballot referendum (which will likely take place this November). Before rolling the dice on this amendment, all New Yorkers should think it through and follow the advice of a popular country song: “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run.”