By Steve Mosco
A group of concerned elected officials and business leaders gathered on the steps of Borough Hall in Kew Gardens this week to urge the governor to reconsider rolling the dice on table gaming in the city.
With voters set to cast their ballots in a statewide referendum to legalize full-scale gaming this fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vision for Las Vegas-style casinos with table games is limited to the upstate region as he tries to lure tourists north of Manhattan.
But representatives from the Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Queens Economic Development Corp., along with state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and state Assembly members Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) and Nily Rozic (D-Flushing), said Queens has a facility ready for table games — and its own dire need for tourist revenue.
“Resorts World has created hundreds of jobs for Queens residents, has led to millions of dollars of local economic activity and has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to local not-for-profits,” said Queens Chamber President Albert Pennisi, referring to Resorts World Casino New York City in South Ozone Park. “Adding table games would increase these numbers exponentially.”
Under the governor’s proposal, revealed earlier this month, three new casinos with table games would be considered in upstate New York if voters approve full gaming in this fall’s statewide referendum. But his proposal states that no casino with table games will be allowed downstate, including at Resorts World, for at least five years.
“We believe there’s a market being created in upstate New York because there is no casino in New York City and to keep that competitive advantage we would say there would be no additional casinos for a period of five years,” Cuomo said.
But Queens lawmakers do not agree with the governor’s upstate plans and are urging him to allow the casino at Aqueduct Racetrack to introduce full-scale gaming. Addabbo said the infrastructure already exists at Resorts World and, one month after table gaming is legalized, the casino could generate more jobs and revenue for the borough and state.
“Resorts World has done it right. Because of Resorts World, we have 1,750 new jobs, $710 million in additional tax revenue and a great partner for local business right here in Queens,” said Addabbo. “Why reinvent the wheel?”
The elected officials argued that Queens needs more opportunities for new jobs, especially after Hurricane Sandy swept through. Goldfeder, who represents parts of the borough devastated by the storm, said finding new and creative ways to help small businesses are imperative to rejuvenating the borough’s economy.
“Creating a full-scale, enhanced gaming casino at Resorts World would not only increase revenues for the community and the state, but the impact would also be felt immediately in terms of economic activity and job creation for southern Queens and Rockaway families,” he said.
As for the upstate locations set for casino development, Cuomo said an independent selection committee would choose the locations and the state Legislature would not be involved.