Sometime in the next decade, New York will be awash in casinos. I wonder if the politicians and business leaders who wanted them will be sorry.
Casinos are a hot topic in Henrietta right now. The Seneca Nation announced last week that it has bought land off I-390 for a casino, and Henrietta residents quickly geared up for a fight. They turned out at a Town Board meeting on March 5, saying a casino would change the character of the town, breed crime, and hurt the residential neighborhood nearby.
Two days later, Town Supervisor Jack Moore announced his own opposition to the casino, and he said he'll introduce a resolution opposing it at the Town Board's March 19 meeting.
If the board approves Moore's resolution, it's not clear whether the Senecas will keep pursing the project in Henrietta. They released a statement expressing disappointment that they hadn't had a chance to present their proposal to the community. But Henrietta officials and residents can't, on their own, block the casino. A 1794 treaty gives the Senecas sovereign-nation status.
The Senecas do have to get permission from state and federal officials, and that process will take time. I assume, though, that if the Senecas are denied a casino in Henrietta, they'll be welcomed somewhere else locally. We'll get a Seneca casino.
And that's not the only one in the planning stages. In a fit of wool-over-the-eyes madness last fall, New Yorkers voted to amend the state constitution and permit up to seven new non-Indian casinos: four in Upstate New York now and three more in the New York City area after seven years.
So far, there seems to be plenty of competition, both for hosting the casinos and for operating them. State officials responsible for approving locations and operators will probably make their decision before the end of this year, according to the New York Times.
It's not as if New Yorkers lack places to lose their money now, right in the Empire State. We already have five casinos and nine racinos, smaller gambling establishments attached to racetracks.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about casinos, including gambling addiction. But I'm becoming increasingly incensed by the duplicity of many of the supporters, who insist that casinos are guaranteed job creators. They're not. In fact, they can do great economic harm.
The warning signs are everywhere, in formal economic-impact studies and in places like Niagara Falls, New York, where the promised city revitalization is nowhere to be seen.
Casinos aren't just gambling halls. They're designed as self-contained units, with hotels, restaurants, and retail shops. Casino operators want their customers to stay put, not wander off and do something else. So while a casino and its related businesses can prosper, nearby businesses aren't so lucky. Adding to casinos' competitive advantage: they often offer "points" or other incentives to get patrons to eat, drink, and buy within their complex. They make their real money, after all, on gambling.
And by the way: business is a survival-of-the-fittest affair. If we get too many casinos, some will go out of business, leaving their host communities with a big empty complex, dashed hopes, unemployment, and money problems.
Some job creator that'll be.
And I can't resist passing this along: One of the big proponents of the constitutional amendment making all this possible was a group called NY Jobs Now, a coalition of gaming businesses, other business groups, and labor unions. NY Jobs Now spent $3.8 million promoting the casino amendment, according to the Albany Times-Union, and one of the big selling points was that new casinos would create jobs.
The group cared so much about jobs for New Yorkers that when it looked for companies to handle the advertising and other promotion, it turned to... a company based in Washington, D.C., and Georgia and one based in Illinois.