New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that he supports the construction of a full-tilt casino in New York City, but some groups say it is important that such a move be accompanied by a campaign to help New Yorkers avoid gambling addiction and other woes.
Taking a controversial stance that he says would bring billions of dollars in revenue to the state's coffers, Cuomo told the New York Daily News in a year-end interview that he believes the benefits of bringing a casino replete with gambling tables and other full-on gaming options to a more-sparsely-populated section of the city would far outweigh the modest associated increase in crime and other negative impacts that may arise from added gambling.
Cuomo did not go so far as to say that he is preselecting New York City as his top choice for the location of such a casino, but instead told the Daily News that the city certainly can be a good place to build one because of the wide base of customers it could draw from across the five boroughs.
I'm not excluding any locations at this time, he told the paper, adding that New York City is a real location ... Albany is a real location. Buffalo is a real location.
Anytime casinos in New York City are discussed, Aqueduct Racetrack is the first site that comes to mind for most people. Located in Ozone Park, Queens, Asian company Genting Group added 2,280 video gambling terminals this fall, redubbing Aqueduct as Resorts World Casino New York City, the first racino in the city with both horse racing and video gambling.
The massive site is far from the city's commercial districts and population centers, and Resorts World expects it to bring $500 million of revenue to the city each year.
The benefits of increased revenue lead many politicians and budget hawks looking for means to bring jobs to the city and to find long-term state and city budgetary fixes to back the governor's proposal.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Democrat who represents Ozone Park and other sections of southern Queens, has been a key supporter of the Resorts World project, and he told the International Business Times Tuesday that bringing gambling there would bring jobs and economic vitality to the surrounding area.
I'm all for it. I think we have to acknowledge that gambling is already in our state in some form and if we don't maximize our potential in the area of gaming we will lose billions to Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and the surrounding states, and that's money we would love to keep in our state to restore funding to seniors, education and social services, he said.
But he added that some concerns will have to be addressed before casinos can be safely opened in New York. Addabbo believes that the minimum age for gambling should be raised from 18 to 21 years old--as it currently is in New Jersey--in order to shield younger people from the dark side of gaming.
Also, he said the dangers of gambling need to be better addressed through public information campaigns, treatment and other initiatives.
Jim Maney, Executive Director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, expounded on those concerns during a Tuesday interview with the IBTimes.
He said his organization is not against gambling, but it believes that if the state embarks on any expansion of gambling the state needs to increase funding to combat the woes of problem gambling.
If you think about the gambling we have in the state of New York, we're projecting that New Yorkers will lose about $3.4 billion to state-sponsored gambling this year, but we don't have the services in place to raise awareness about problem gambling, Maney said. When we talk about any type of gambling or gaming, we need to make sure we have the conversation of how we make sure we mitigate the dangers of gambling on the public.
The logistics of legalizing full-tilt gaming in New York are complicated, but Cuomo and political observers seem confident that his ability to get controversial bills--such as last year's Marriage Equality Act, which legalized gay marriage--passed by the state Legislature could translate into a similar result for casinos.
In order for full-tilt casinos to go up in New York, the Legislature would have to vote for two successive years to approve a constitutional amendment allowing such facilities to be built in the state, and the voting public would have to vote in favor of a referendum to allow such an amendment to go through.