Backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration are continuing plans to build a Las Vegas style casino in New York. The preliminary plan, if it ever takes off, is to bring a major gambling center to a place like Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, where video gambling machines have recently been installed.
However, Cuomo is still pushing hard to legalize all forms of gambling, as mentioned in his state of the state address. In fact according to a poll conducted by Siena College, 53 percent of New York voters support legislature passing a constitutional amendment to allow major casinos to be built in the state.
In a recent speech regarding the subject, Cuomo envisions a major gambling commission, if casino's were to be built in the state, which he hopes lawmakers and voters approve sometime next year.
Sell the rights, maximize your profits, regulate it, make sure no wise guys get involved, Cuomo said, according to the New York Post. If it were up to me, I would put together a gaming board like Nevada--former FBI, former CIA . . . strict regulations, public bids, open the envelopes.
However, Cuomo also acknowledged that even with heavy restrictions, gambling comes with heavy baggage. Some studies suggest that gambling bring an increase of crime.
At a press conference Wednesday, Commissioner Ray Kelly said he didn't expect any problems to come from a casino or gambling in New York City.
It is a ways off and we would look at it more closely, but we don't see any major issues associated with legalized gambling.
While street crime may not be an issue, organized crime and the Mafia will certainly look to take hold of New York's gambling industry.
Members of organized crime are busy in every facet of society looking for a way to penetrate , said James Wedick. Wedick is a 35-year veteran of the FBI. He has been investigated cases ranging from terrorism to political corruption to the Mafia. Organized crime will always try to steal a buck from legitimate sort of folks.
It is no secret that the Mafia had a major role in the implementation of legalized gambling in Las Vegas. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Mafia was a major powerhouse in the gambling scene, controlling casinos, politicians and owners in order to turn a profit. However, things have changed and the American Mafia is not the crime syndicate it once was in its heyday.
I think everybody agrees they don't have the bang that they once had, said Wedick. In the 1960s and 1970s they were as sophisticated as law enforcement, even able to stay a step of ahead of municipal police forces and the FBI. However, advancements in police training and techniques allowed law enforcement to effectively tackle organized crime, said Wedick.
Now, however, the Mafia has devolved into more or less or unsophisticated crews, who take part in more small time stuff in local neighborhoods.
But with New York on the edge of legalizing gambling, there is always the possibility of a resurgence of the Mafia in the city. Wedick said it is important to be aware of organized crime making their presence known through a variety of tactics.
They go and try and corrupt the public officials, he said. It will be the politician who finds himself in dire financial straits. It would also be conceivable that it would be a politician who has neighborhood connections to some local hoods and become mixed up in a scheme.
However, he would also expect the gangsters to go after established businessmen. Sometimes they will extort powerful people heading up development in a casino or they will go after workers on the lower end of the totem pole.
If you are going to skim cash off the top, the best way is get into accounting, he said. See if you can blackmail someone into doing something.
In order to curtail the corruption often associated with legalized gambling, Wedick expects New York to form a Nevada style gaming commission--as Cuomo proposes--that will help monitor the finances of each casino and take complaints very seriously. The FBI will be monitoring statements and closely look at the associations of each company.
However, the Mafia does not plan ahead, Wedick reassured. Their plans are more accidental, he said. They tend to take an attitude of let's take advantage of something as it happens, he said. They don't forecast down the road like that.