Most people assume that the New York State Gaming Commission has to award four new casino licenses in 2014 or 2015. This assumption has made some individuals and groups in “regions eligible for gaming” hesitant to speak against particular proposals. They worry lest opposition in one place push the site selection to another locale no better suited. Think of the “Far Side” cartoon where a bear in the crosshairs points emphatically at another bear by his side.
It’s not true, however, that the Commission must sign off on four licenses. Coalition Against Gambling in New York (CAGNY) calls the attention of press and public to the fact that the Gaming Commission is not required to award even one casino license now or ever. The passage of “Prop 1” in 2013 and its enabling legislation, the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013, authorized the Gaming Commission to award up to four licenses “upstate.” The law did not mandate a single one.
The law states (Title 1 §1300 ¶ 4) that “The state should authorize four destination resort casinos in upstate New York.” Note the wording: “should” is used, not “shall,” “will” or “must.”
Further, in Title 2 §1311 the law reads : “The Commission is authorized to award up to four gaming facility licenses . . .” Again, the language is permissive.
CAGNY observes that if the Gaming Commission has a green light from the legislature for up to four licenses, it also has the prerogative to award fewer. When the built-in drawbacks to casinos, like unchecked problem gambling, are compounded by the current fiscal woes of market saturation and leapfrogging interstate competition, not even one casino is called for. Columnist Fred Lebrun wrote thus of our state’s rush to expand casino gambling: “We’re embracing a corpse.”
Persons who speak against a particular proposal at the hearings on September 22-24 2014 should make that point loud and clear. If someone asks “Supposing the proposal you’re fighting does not get a license, where should that license go?” the reply is “Nowhere.”
Photo image “It’s just an illusion” from FlickrCC 4490566126_9ce7b24272
Permission to use this post in whole or part is hereby granted as long as the permalink above is cited. The opinions expressed are those of the writer, Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH, and are not necessarily shared by any or all members of Coalition Against Gambling in New York.