New Yorkers should reject Proposition 1 on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, a proposition which would change the state constitution in order to allow for casino gambling beyond Indian reservations.
I have written extensively on why casino gambling is a bad idea. Politicians like casino gambling because it provides short term fiscal shot, but this is as illusory as the idea of getting rich at the gambling tables (and probably has more to do with campaign donors). The profits from the table come out of the pockets of people who can least afford it, and is extracted out of the state. The jobs that are created are crappy (Did you really send your kid to college to run a craps table?). There are a host of costs to a community that are conveniently omitted from the cost-benefit calculation (traffic, public safety, financial ruin).
But more significantly, casino gambling has not proved the panacea to any place where it was supposed to reduce tax burden: certainly not New Jersey - Atlantic City was supposed to pay for education and seniors, and yet they are still slashing teachers and bitching about high property taxes; not Pennsylvania (go talk to the blighted communities about what a boon casinos have been); or Connecticut. And Las Vegas nearly collapsed in the Great Recession. It will also be bad for Long Island and the areas downstate, by literally extracting dollars that would be spent here on tourism (though it is likely that these areas will sue to get their own casinos and here on Long Island, the Shinnecock Reservation is pushing for its own casino).
And by the way, do you remember how the New York State lottery was pitched? It was supposed to fully fund public education and seniors. And yet here we are, bitching about school taxes because we get so little in state aid.
That's not how the ballot proposal is presented. In fact, there is clearly a bias in the wording: ?The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?" (see: votesmart.org/elections/ballot-measure/1846/authorizing-casino-gaming#.UnfnuOJ378k)
Who isn't in favor of job growing, increasing school aid and lower property taxes? But this is exactly the problem: casino gambling is not the solution.
On the other hand, the proponents of casino gambling have spent millions to influence the legislation, and to promote its passage in New York State.
"From 2011 to April 2013, the gambling industry spent a total of $19.7 million on lobbying and political contributions in New York State: $14.7 million on lobbying and $2.4 million on campaign contributions in New York in addition to donating $2.6 million to the Committee to Save New York (campaign contribution figures only include 2011 and 2012, new data for 2013 will not be available until July)
"Top spending gambling interests directly affected by the casino legislation include the New York Gaming Association ($3.6 million), Genting New York ($3.3 million), The Seneca Nation of Indians ($1.4 million), Yonkers Raceway ($955,000), Delaware North ($927,000), Empire Resorts Inc. ($745,000), American Racing & Entertainment ($497,000), the Shinnecock Nation ($440,000), Nassau OTB ($423,000), the Oneida Indian Nation ($381,000), and Saratoga Harness Racing Inc. ($328,000).
"Gambling contributions show no partisan preference and are channeled directly towards those in positions of power. The top campaign contribution recipients of gambling dollars during this period are the NYS Senate Republican Campaign Committee ($404,000), the NYS Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee ($372,000), Governor Cuomo ($242,000), Attorney General Schneiderman ($84,500), Senate Racing & Wagering Chair John Bonacic ($76,000), and Assembly Racing & Waging Chair J. Gary Pretlow ($59,000).
"The top ten lobbyists retained by gambling interests during this period include a who's who of the most influential firms in the state: Patricia Lynch Associates ($1.46 million), Cordo & Company ($975,000), Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker ($953,000), Meara Avella Dickenson ($805,000), Featherstonhaugh Wiley & Clyne ($787,000), Park Strategies ($649,000), Dan Klores Communications ($643,000), Kasirer Consulting ($470,000), Brian R. Meara Public Relations ($439,000), and Bolton St. Johns ($398,000)."
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been the biggest proponent of casino gambling, especially to revitalize the persistently moribund upstate economy, in a robo-call to get voters to vote for casino gambling that it will keep "$1.2 billion in New York that we currently lose to casinos in neighboring states, and generate hundreds of millions in revenue to supplement education spending, lower property taxes."
There should be another way to create good jobs that also generate revenue to the state.
There are six propositions on the ballot. For more information on ballot measures and voting, go to the League of Women Voters site, vote411.org.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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