CAGNY’s Message to Legislators on One Page

 

Goya: El Sueno de Razon

Goya: El Sueno de Razon

      When CAGNY members visit legislators in Albany on Feb 5, here is what we will say about the Governor’s proposal  to amend the state constitution (Article I sec 9 and allow up to seven new commercial casinos: 

     Half  the revenue of casinos and large lotteries is from pathological ( addicted) and problem gamblers.  They  seldom own what they drop.  It has usually been diverted from someone else (e.g. spouse) who has equal or better right to it (e.g. mortgage payment).  These are  “abused dollars.”  Some of the money lost by these gamblers comes from outright crime, a later recourse for many pathological gamblers beyond taking from intimates or dependents  who might not prosecute.

    Thus half the revenue government gets from gambling is passed to it from gamblers’ losses,  staked by deceitful diversion or outright thefts from someone other than the gambler.  The multiplier for “other”  is 8-fold.  For every pathological or problem gambler, 8 other people, often  children,  are deprived of something valuable, not limited to money.

    When government facilitates or sponsors gambling to balance the budget,  it exploits not only the dis-control of  some  gamblers but the miserable situation of their families and close associates.  For government to overlook  this  injury to persons —including children— around the gambler treats  them as expendable.

    Even if someone thinks gambling addicts deserve to live damaged lives or to self-end them, he or she cannot wish the same fate on the gambler’s near and once-dear.  More than dollars are abused.  Domestic violence, physical, and emotional injury are common in the circles of gambling addicts and problem gamblers.  Suicide harms, not one person, but many.

    Fear, distance, abstraction can make other humans expendable to the best of us.  The story should be different, however, when the people to be made expendable are not remote and when the people doing the expending are in our state government.  We who oppose the constitutional amendment  say “No  New Yorker is expendable.”  

                                               VOTE  NAY  ON SECOND PASSAGE

    The text of the amendment of Art I §9 that would go to referendum must be the same as S 6734.  Implementing language must be approved by the legislature, though who will draft it and when is not clear.  A vote for second passage gives no security to a legislator or to the voters at referendum on these key points, any or all of which could be changed in a later session:

  • Timetable of building the “no more than seven” casinos
  • Locations and size  Could a new casino double its gambling floorspace three years later?
  • “Home Rule” What level of social organization (e.g. village, town, county, state) will make decisions about same or different levels close by (e.g. village inside a town).  Who speaks, who votes?
  • Rate for property tax and for tax on casino income payable  to state and sub-state levels.
  • Funding for “prevention and treatment.”  

    The sleep of reason brings forth nightmares:  a worst case scenario could put five or six big casinos in or very near the Greater Metropolitan Area, leading to eighty thousand new gambling addicts  and 200,000 new problem gamblers.  Or, think of this:  Would it be socially just,  if all the town boards in a county but one voted against a casino,   to  put one in the lone holdout township? 

                                         VOTE  NAY  ON SECOND  PASSAGE

 

Albany and Art of Deception

Albany and Art of Deception: From the Land Where No Means Yes

by David Colavito

"Peering over the edge" Flickr CC

“Peering over the edge” Flickr CC

Question:  When can state government promote responsible policies without leveling with voters?

Answer:  It can’t.

Question:  Has Governor Cuomo leveled with New Yorkers about his proposal to amend the state constitution to permit casino gaming?

Answer: No

Beyond special interests and hidden agendas, it’s simple.  Public policy initiatives designed to mislead the public aren’t responsible, and when they’re promoted, hang on to your wallet, because you can be sure that same public will eventually be picking up the tab.

In his 2012 state of the state address, Governor Cuomo rolled out his economic development plan that featured, among other things, his proposal to amend the New York State constitution to permit casino gaming.  He implied that those who question whether we should be in the gaming business are the equivalent of delusional because, as he put it, New York is already in the gaming business.  He referred to horse racing and video lottery terminal locations throughout the state as bedrock justification for his assertion.  He waxed, perhaps not eloquently, about the benefits casino gaming would bring to the Empire state.  And he cited, as common-sense, the need to rethink how our state manages gaming, if it’s to stem losses of potential revenue flowing like water out of New York into neighboring casino-permissive states in what might be thought of as a casino siphon.  The Governor came as close to saying as one could without actually saying it: New Yorkers are fools if they don’t get with his program to legalize casino gaming in the Empire State.

And so it was that Mr. Cuomo chose to bury the lead, raising the same tired red flags proponents of similar proposals hope go unnoticed.  It was deeply disappointing for people who took seriously the commitments to transparency and disclosure he’d laid claim to throughout much of his political career.

 Casino gaming is fiction, because casino gambling isn’t a game.  It’s the antithesis of a game, because games aren’t reliant upon participants incurring personal and economic hardships, an immutable aspect of betting against the house.  Medical and law enforcement professionals have long acknowledged that gambling disorders are real and incur substantial costs for society, just as substance abuse and tobacco related diseases do, though you’d never know it from Mr. Cuomo.  And although federal and state governments have for decades derived substantial revenue through taxation on tobacco and alcohol products, they aren’t in the business of promoting either.  But this isn’t about ideological purity; it’s about Mr. Cuomo playing it straight with New York voters, the same ones he needs to ratify changes to the state constitution in order to have his way.  So it’s also about what paths he’ll travel to get his way.

Casino gambling epitomizes wagering against the house, where the house’s odds of winning ensure everyone else must eventually lose, and as every casino owner knows, that’s a very different paradigm than Saturday night card games among friends.   All this isn’t to suggest everyone entering a casino becomes addicted to gambling, anymore than it’s to suggest everyone consuming alcohol becomes an alcoholic.  What it’s saying and not just suggesting is trained professionals tell us gambling disorders are real, and they come with hefty costs to our communities that can greatly exceed benefits.  And if this was intended to be a scholarly work it would also cite documentation of the disproportionately high level of casino revenues obtained from people with serious gambling disorders, sick people in need of help not exploitation from state government.  It’s a predatory business model, because in a variety of ways it arguably cultivates those disorders to facilitate preying upon those so afflicted.  Sound familiar?  It should, at least for those of sufficient age to recall the earlier days of lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers, but with one important twist: the government was party to some of those smoking related lawsuits.   

So appreciating the first red flag raised by the governor is to appreciate gaming for what it is, his euphemism of choice intended to inoculate voters against making an informed decision.

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What We Didn’t See Is What We Got

                                          What We Didn’t See Is What We Got

 

8410159320_9203082701I recently posted on  how the NYS Lottery has made itself a role in balancing the State budget. The role is supporter of “education.”   The Governor thinks a like role will make acceptable to the voters the  new casinos he wants as one of his legacies to the State.  Voters know more about the downside of casinos in 2013 than we did about the future of State Lottery in 1966.  That makes for a harder sell. The magic words “for education” could still charm it through.  This 700-word essay has two parts:  (1) a history of  amendments in Article I § 9  starting with the one in 1966 that launched NYS Lottery (2) figures on  NYSL  as of  FY 2012.

             Between 1967 and 1993 there were 485 bills introduced to the legislature to amend Article I, an average of 18/year.  This made Article I one of the most targeted articles. Almost half the proposed changes were to do with gambling, which is in §9 but is not the entirety of that section.   Only two proposals in those 18 years to amend Article I passed both chambers in two legislatures.   Both concerned “charitable” gambling; both were approved by referendum.  In that same era, a total of 61 (1.4%) proposed amendments on all topics passed both chambers in two successively-elected legislatures .  Forty-one (67%) of these 61 passed in a referendum.  

Benjamin and Cusa* mention a total of six amendments to Section 9 between 1939 and 2001.  I reviewed those between 1966 and 2001 in McKinney’s.

1939 pari-mutuel (OTB legalized 1970)

1957 charitable gambling with many restrictions

  • 1966 State Lottery “implementing language” followed
  • 1975 amendment of wording on charitable gambling
  • 1984 further rewrites about wording on charitable gambling
  • 2001 small change in § 9 “fireman” to” firefighter.”  Many such small changes throughout entire Constitution, most of which were to replace gender specifying pronouns or titles.

 

*An excellent article on the amendment process for the years 1967-1993 is by Gerald Benjamin and Melissa Cusa  “Amending the New York State Constitution Through  the Legislature” pp 55-73 at the following web site:

http://www.rockinst.org/pdf/government_reform/1994-nys_constitution_a_briefing_book.pdf    

         As of now, the NYS Lottery operates about 13,000 virtual slot machines at nine racinos (Hamburg, Aqueduct, Monticello, Saratoga, Yonkers, Finger Lakes, Vernon Downs, Batavia and Tioga).  Chapter 383 of the Laws of October 2001 allowed the State Lottery to join with Mega Millions (2002).  In 2010 Powerball, another multistate lottery with stupendous prizes, was allowed.  Both these events have very frequent drawings, not daily, with the jackpot rising when there is no winner yet.  Two  other Jackpot “Games” wholly under State Lottery are Lotto (draws not daily, prize rises until winner known) and Sweet Million (draws not daily,  fixed prize $1M). There are four Daily “games”  Take 5, Numbers, Win 4 and Pick 10.  There are at least 8000 Quick Draw settings, with a result every 4 minutes,  23.5 hours a day.  There are scratchoff   instant games for bets ranging from one dollar to thirty dollars.  Here are the returns for FY 2012 (thru March 31) for each category. Column 2 and 3 in $millions.

Category                                Intake               “To Education”          % “To Education”

Jackpot 923 395   43
Daily 2010 808   40
Instant 3579 816   23
Social (Quick Draw) 502 156   31
“Casinos” (Video Gaming) 1426 696   48

 

      The first four rows, inexplicably referred to as  “Traditional,”  returned to the Lottery 7.01 billion   before prize payouts.   Most of the return went to prizes.  “To Education” went 2.10 billion, or 31% .  The racinos (AKA “Video Gaming Casinos”) saw a total amount bet of 19.48 billion, with a net of  1.426 billion after payouts to  bettors.   “To Education”   went 696 million (48%). Because these establishments must by law contribute to horse racing and to the support of the privately-owned tracks at which they are situated,  slightly less than half their net passed “to Education.”   In summary, Lottery as a whole sent “to Education” 2.89 billion in FY 2012.  This figure will likely be more in FY 2013, with Aqueduct’s share up and that of Yonkers,  down.

 http://nylottery.ny.gov/wps/wcm/connect/2aaf628044bec0b08c5d8c3b1ada7a32/YearEndReport12.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&Annual%20Report

Opinions are my own, do not necessarily relect those of other members of CAGNY.   Photo from flickrCC “scratchoff cards”

New Commercial Casinos Will Mean Thousands of New Gambling Addicts

Adverse Impact of New In-state Casinos on Prevalence of Pathological and Problem Gamblers in New York State

by
Stephen Q. Shafer, M.D., M.A., M.P.H.

Summary: Up to seven new commercial casinos would be allowed by a proposed amendment to the State Constitution, risking the creation of eighty thousand new gambling addicts and two hundred thousand new problem gamblers in New York State. The quantifiable costs related just to these new out-of-control gamblers would far outweigh the tax revenues New York State would see from “recapturing” gamblers who  had been crossing state lines and also taxing new in-state casinos on their take from new gamblers. The number of pathological (addicted) gamblers and problem gamblers created would exceed the number of new hires at the casinos by a factor of ten or more.

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