Online Poker Hearing Misses the Point

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The New York State Senate website has announced that the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee will ‘discuss the future of online poker in New York State’ at a hearing scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on September 9, Wednesday. ORAL TESTIMONY BY INVITATION ONLY

Coalition Against Gambling in New York believes that there should be no future for online poker.  Not invited to speak, we submit the statement below to  the record:

No form of internet gambling is now legal in NY. State Senator John  Bonacic’s bill S 5302 proposes to legalize internet poker. The upcoming  hearing looks like a shout-out to gambling interests*, including the Poker Players’ Alliance.  The Senator seems indifferent to social and constitutional legal issues about internet gambling.  According to Tight Poker,   his concern is how   it might profit NYS to legalize  i-poker ASAP.

Online poker is the thin end of the “legalization” wedge because some savants hold there can be enough skill in poker to make it  not gambling. They note that  a star  player may   win big over time, unlike a slot machine user. The vast majority  of players who aren’t stars, however, are certainly gambling. Outside “World Series” tournaments that draw skilled peers, the consistent big winners are sustained by  the predictable losses of the less apt, the more chance-tossed.

Ominously, were i-poker  “legalized,” other on-line games would likely follow. First would come those that have less, but still some, element of decision-making skill relative to chance than does poker. Later, with these precedents, would come casino “games” of pure chance, which everyone agrees are gambling.

If stymied by a future ruling that i-poker is gambling, the Senator may try a different tactic.   He knows that unless a bill to rebuild the longstanding federal ban on internet gambling passes soon, each state may make its own laws about internet gambling (except on sports). He may anticipate that the Legislature would concede him i-gambling after the trite argument that “Other states will be doing it; so, we should too and before them.” New York, however, has a constitutional prohibition against all types of gambling other than those that have been allowed in by amendment, most recently casinos. The Legislature has shown itself ever ready to re-define words like “lottery,” but it cannot amend the Constitution.  That would require a vote of the people, who have shown no special desire for internet gambling.

Article 1 § 9 . . .no lottery or the sale of lottery tickets, pool-selling, book-making, or any other kind of gambling, except lotteries operated by the state and the sale of lottery tickets in connection therewith as may be authorized and prescribed by the legislature, the net proceeds of which shall be applied exclusively to or in aid or support of education in this state as the legislature may prescribe, except pari-mutual betting on horse races as may be prescribed by the legislature and from which the state shall derive a reasonable revenue for the support of government, and except casino gambling at no more than seven facilities as authorized and prescribed by the legislature shall hereafter be authorized or allowed within this state; and the legislature shall pass appropriate laws to prevent offenses against any of the provisions of this section. (Amendment approved by vote of the people November 5, 2013.)

Sen. Bonacic will perhaps argue that i-gamblers can be required (the NJ model) to be registered with an  in-state casino, which they need never visit again.   He may assert that when “Prop 1” passed in 2013  it  implied this easy fix.  Plainly it did not.

Or, less likely, the Senator might try to graft internet gambling onto the New York State Lottery, requiring participants to register with a racino, not a licensed casino.

There are many arguments against i-gambling that we don’t take up here. Our focus today is on the wrongness of hearings that have nothing to do with whether internet poker should be made legal and everything with “When do we start?”  . Mr.  Bonacic acts as if legalizing internet poker in New York State is a mere formality, like closing a business deal with allies. Such arrogance should be called.

[*] In August, Tight Poker interviewed Sen. Bonacic about who had been invited to testify orally. “ ‘Lawmakers and various representatives of the gambling industry will be present at the hearing.’ Bonacic said: ‘I’m bringing in Caesars and MGM plus all of my [emphasis added] casinos, racinos, and OTBs. We are going to have a discussion on the pros and cons of moving the legislation.’ ”

Permission to reproduce this in whole or in part is hereby granted by cagnyeditor as long as the permalink above is cited.  The Trojan Horse painting is by Tiepolo.

Nowhere

Rainbow's end

Rainbow’s end

Nowhere

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.

The Crying of Prop. 1, 2013

The Crying of Prop. 1

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

Chairperson, Coalition Against Gambling in New York

 

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Summary Social costs due to  increased  problem gambling after  “up to seven” new casinos open in New York State will almost certainly exceed revenues from the State’s taxing new casinos.  These costs are real but externalized,  thus easily hidden or denied.  Just a 10% increase in the statewide prevalence of problem gambling would almost wipe out the gains in revenue to the State treasury and create thousands more gambling addicts than “permanent good jobs.”   A  25%  increase would nearly negate the entire sum ($1.2 billion)  targeted for recovery via in-state casinos.  In their quest for revenue without increases in conventional taxes,  state officials implied by silence  that  the number of  new problem gamblers anticipated either cannot be estimated or need not be. It is a nullity, off  the board.

No public policy can be evaluated properly without considering costs. Yet that’s what happened in the legislature and on the campaign trail.  This paper gives a public health physician’s   viewpoint of  the dishonesty in marketing “Proposal 1” right into the polling booth.

Introduction  The victorious campaign to legalize casinos in New York State  played up  hoped-for benefits and  played down  likely costs.  While conceding when pressed that problem gambling is a problem, promoters never  acknowledged  the flip side to making casinos more convenient to New Yorkers.  This step, to become law on January 1,  will (not might, will) create new addicted gamblers and new problem gamblers as well as service current ones.  Costs quite possibly in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year  will extend  to society from this sector.

Neither government nor business interests have made public any consideration whatsoever of   these costs.  The deliberate silence moved me, as a physician trained in public health, to compare these costs to the much-publicized  benefits.  I focused on a narrow question:  will the inflow of casino money to the State Treasury equal or outweigh the costs of the new casinos, externalized to New York’s people?  This is only one type of benefit, only one category of costs.

Analysis   What inflow is expected?    Proposal 1 promoters  have repeatedly said that gamblers from  NY  “spend”  $ 1.2 billion / yr  at  casinos in adjoining states and Canada.  [1]   The basis for this figure is not known to me.  In 2012 patrons from NY left behind at the two Indian casinos in Connecticut $259 million. [2]   Presumably the other billion was left behind in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Canada.  If this amount were lost in NYS  instead of elsewhere,  taxing it at the rates in Table 1  would yield to the State treasury the following amounts:.

 

                                                       Abbreviations used in the textNYS     New York StateQSEC   Quantifiable Socio-Economic Costs

 

Table 1.  Division of  $1.2 billion  “spent”  in out-of –NYS  casinos between State Treasury and  casino  ownership if all  $1.2 billion were kept in NYS.

Tax rate     State Treasury                Owners

$ millions               $ millions

20%                   240                            960

25%                   300                            900

30%                   360                            840

35%                   420                            780

40%                   480                            720

45%                   540                            660

At  30%  (reasonable guesstimate for NYS non-tribal casinos with 70% slots 30% other), the State Treasury would gain $360 million.  This is not the only possible benefit to the state, but is the most easily measured and the most talked-about, as in  “educating our children,” “property tax relief.”

Now to costs:   the principal (but far from the only) cost of “up to seven” casinos is the creation of new addicted and problem gamblers through a “distance  effect. ”     For a brief review of the literature, see pages 2-4 of a Dec 2012 paper which looked at the hypothetical scenario of five new casinos in New York City   [3]

The entry of  new gamblers during a specified time (incidence) into a category like “addicted”  is not well  measured by the prevalence (proportion active at a given time) [4].  This is because individuals leave the active prevalence pool over time through recovery, death, imprisonment, totally disabling illness or out-migration.  As hard as it is to measure the  prevalence of problem gambling,  it is far harder to measure incidence. Thus prevalence, fraught with methodological problems,  is the usual benchmark.

To assess costs of new addicted gamblers and problem gamblers we need  head counts and  per-head figures for cost.  The cost figures cited most often are from Earl L. Grinols, Distinguished Professor of Economics at Baylor. His book shows clearly how he came to them. [5]   I call these Quantifiable Socioeconomic Costs  (abbrev. QSEC), though Grinols does not use that term.  In  2012 dollars  QSEC  are $13787 / yr  per pathological (addicted ) gambler; those per problem Gambler are $3600 /yr .  Note well:  QSEC do not include suicide, divorce,  mental anguish, family disruption.  The costs of   these calamities are un-quantifiable; no monetary values can be assigned.  Thus they are even easier to disregard than QSEC.

Regarding the head count: the number of active addicted gamblers in NYS can be estimated by applying to a rounded-off figure of 15 million adults statistics for prevalence among adults of addicted (1.14%) and of problem gamblers (2.8%).  These are not recent but are well-established from a meta-analysis. [6]   In a national sample reported in 2004 [7] the prevalence of pathological and problem gamblers combined was 3.5% .

If at baseline there are 171,000 active addicted gamblers (15 million * 1.14%) and prevalence goes  up  by 5%, NYS  has  at least 9,000 new addicts.  Table 2 shows the number of new cases for a given increment in prevalence,  and the QSEC attached.  Table 3 works the same way for problem gamblers.  Table 4 combines the QSEC  for both types, arrayed by % increase.

Table 2.  Number of  new addicted  gamblers in NYS and Quantifiable Socioeconomic Costs of new addicted gamblers, by increase in prevalence  over baseline.  e.g. 9,000 * $13,787 /yr = $ 124 million/yr

Increase                       New addicted  gamblers   QSEC of increase in $ millions/yr

5%                                             9,000                         124

10%                                         17,000                         234

15%                                         26,000                         358

20%                                         34,000                         469

25%                                         43,000                         593

30%                                         51,000                         703

Table 3.  Number of new problem gamblers in NYS and Quantifiable Socioeconomic Costs of new problem gamblers, by increase in prevalence  over baseline. e.g. 21,000 * $3,600 /yr = $ 76 million/yr

Increase                       New  problem  gamblers   QSEC of increase in $ millions/yr

5%                                           21,000                         76

10%                                         42,000                         151

15%                                         63,000                         227

20%                                         84,000                         302

25%                                       105,000                         378

30%                                       126,000                         454

Table 4.  Quantifiable Socioeconomic Costs of new addicted  gamblers + new problem gamblers by increase in prevalence  over baseline.  e.g. for 5% increase in both,  total is $124 + $76 = $200 million/year.

Increase                       QSEC of increase, in $ millions/yr

5%                                           200

10%                                         385

15%                                         585

20%                                         771

25%                                         971

30%                                       1157

From Table 4 we see that if prevalence of addictive gambling and of problem gambling both  rise by only 10%, the QSEC attached to that rise are more than the $360 million the State would recover by taxing 1.2 billion at 30%.

We must consider, though, that persons who became gamblers because of the convenient casinos (some addicted,  some  problem gamblers, most in neither type) will also lose money there  that can be taxed.  How much might that add to State treasury  revenue?  Would that be enough to “cover” the QSEC springing from new casinos?  To answer that we need an estimate for  losses by type of gambler.

Grinols and Omorov in a 1996 paper [7]  estimated annual losses to casinos by persons living within 35 miles of  Las Vegas or Atlantic City  at $14,200/year (1992 dollars)  per one hundred  persons.    This includes people who do not go to a casino from one year to the next.  Converting to 2012 dollars gives   $ 23, 400 per 100 persons.  This figure was used in my Dec 2012 paper to reckon that losses to casinos by the 8 million residents of Greater New York came to $1.87 billion/year. I assumed that all losses were to casinos outside the reach of NYS taxation.   If  $23, 400 were applied to the entire NYS population it would mean that losses to casinos come to  $3.5 billion /year,  three times higher that of the commonly-cited  estimate of 1.2 billion /year.  Assuming that  $ 1.2 billion for the whole state is correct, a likely explanation is that since no resident of Greater NY  lives within 35 miles of a full-service casino,   the $23,400/100 persons/yr  figure was high; the longer distance lowers willingness to travel then spend.

$1.2 billion lost at out of state casinos by residents of NYS means that the average loss per year is $1.2 billion/15 million, or $8000/100 persons/year.  I took liberties with the famous table in Grinols and Omorow [8] , keeping the ratios of annual loss per gambler between types very much like those in the original but lowering the values so that the annual loss / 100 persons comes out to $8000, not $23,400.  The results in dollars of 1992 are in Table 5.

Table 5.  Hypothetical structure of casino revenues in 1992 dollars, by type of gambler   This table is formatted like the one in Grinols and Omorov [ref 8]  but the input values  in columns 1 and 3 have been altered, producing figures in column 4 very  different from those in the original.  Percentages in column 5 are similar to those in the original.

Prevalence in population

Type of gambler

Annual loss per gambler

Annual loss per 100 adults

Cumulative % of casino gross

1.14%

Addicted

1480

1687

35

2.8%

Problem

250

700

49

6.06%

Heavy bettor

118

715

64

50%

Light bettor

35

1750

100

40%

Non-bettor

0

0

100

100%

All types

 

4852

 

 

Converting  $4852 dollars of 1992 to $8006 dollars of 2012 gives the amount lost last year out of state /100 persons in population. For a population of 15 million the annual out of state loss is reckoned at $1.2 billion.  If new casinos caused no rise in prevalence of problem gambling AND stopped 100% of leakage,  this table could also represent the gamblers’ losses ( ~ = “gaming revenue”)  at casinos in New York after new casinos are at full steam.  Of this $1.2 billion the State Treasury gets  $360 million at 30% tax rate.

Leaving the baseline of  Table 5, consider the changes in  losses at casinos by gamblers after new casinos open in state,  assuming a 10% rise in prevalences of gambling addiction and problem gambling.  In Table 6,  note  new figures in column 1, same figures in column 3.  The annual loss to casinos rises, as does the revenue to the state treasury.

Table 6.  Hypothetical structure of casino revenues in 1992 dollars, by type of gambler, reflecting changes in relative frequencies of type in population due to new casinos    Assumption: compared to baseline there is a 10 % increase in prevalence of all types of gambler and a decrease in proportion of non-bettors from 40% at baseline to 34%.

Prevalence in population

Type of gambler

Annual loss per gambler

Annual loss per 100 adults

Cumulative % of casino gross

1.25%

Addicted

1480

1850

35

3.08%

Problem

250

770

49

6.7%

Heavy bettor

118

791

64

55%

Light bettor

35

1925

100

34%

Non-bettor

0

0

100

100%

All types

 

5336

 

 

 

Converting $5336 to dollars of 2012 gives $8804 / 100 adults/yr .  This, multiplied by 15 million adults,    yields $1.32 billion as the amount that would be lost by gamblers from New York at casinos in  New York after new casinos are built.  In this scenario the non-tribal New York casinos realize from the losses of  new gamblers an extra $120 million  ( = $1.32B – $1.2B) of which the State gets by taxation 30 % , or $ 36 million.

If  the prevalences of addicted gambling and problem gambling rise by 25% with new casinos, not just by 10%, the annual loss to casinos rises in proportion.  See Table 7.

Table 7.  Hypothetical structure of casino revenues in 1992 dollars, by type of gambler, reflecting changes in relative frequencies of type in population due to new casinos   Assumption: compared to baseline there is a 25% increase in prevalence of  all types of gambler  and a decrease in proportion of non-bettors from 40% at baseline to 29%.

Prevalence in population

Type of gambler

Annual loss per gambler

Annual loss per 100 adults

Cumulative % of casino gross

1.43%

Addicted

1480

2116

36

3.5%

Problem

250

875

51

7.8%

Heavy bettor

118

920

64

62.5%

Light bettor

35

2188

100

25%

Non-bettor

0

0

100

100%

All types

 

6099

 

Converting $6099 to dollars of 2012 gives $10063 / 100 adults/yr. This figure, multiplied by  15 million adults,  yields $1.51 billion as the amount that would be lost at New York casinos by New Yorkers.  Casinos take  in $310 million above baseline (=$1.51B – $1.2B) from the new gamblers, of  which  the State Treasury collects 30%  or $93 million above the baseline intake of $360 million.

Discussion The QSEC to New York society associated with generating 17,000 new addicted gamblers and 42,000 new problem gamblers (10% increase in prevalence of both) are  $385 million, very nearly as much as the revenue to the state ($396 M) from taxing the losses by established and new gamblers at its new casinos.    If the State attended to costs, not just to revenues,  it would see this barely breaks even. The QSEC to New York society associated with generating 43,000 new addicted gamblers and 105,000 new problem gamblers (25% increase in prevalence of both)  are  $971 million, more than twice as much  as much as the revenue to the state ($450 million) from taxing the losses by established and new gamblers at its new casinos. If the State paid attention to costs,  it would see a fiasco.  This $971 million quantifiable cost almost equals the total of  $1.2 billion supposedly at stake.

The advertisements run by NY JOBS NOW implied that every dollar of the 1.2 billion that is lost to a casino in New York rather than across a border will benefit New York.    One ostensible benefit,  outweighed by QSEC,  is tax revenue to be disbursed  back to the populace as “aid to education” or  “property tax relief.”  Another,  not touted so loudly,  might be  to keep the rest of the money within the state where  it will go to overhead and profits of businesses with structures in NYS..  Much of that overhead will, we presume, pass to persons now living in the state as wages and as property tax paid to municipalities (if no abatements).  This would be a benefit to the state.  In fairness and transparency, however,  it  must still be weighed against QSEC, which in the 25% increase scenario may equal or exceed it.   That leaves profit.  Is this a benefit to NYS?    The casino buildings  will be in our state.  Where will the profit-takers be?

It  is too early to know if any of the owners will be NY companies.  Front-running candidates as of  Nov 18  include  Foxwoods, a Connecticut company;  Claremont Partners, “ a partnership of  mostly offshore investors based in the  Isle of Man;”  EPR Properties, based in Kansas City;  Empire Resorts, based in Kuala Lumpur; Concord Associates, New York; Muss Development, New York City; and Jeff  Gural, who lives in New York City.  RH Land Development has its New York State location in Rochester.  Traditions at the Glen Resort has one location, in Johnson City.    Vista Hospitality has its American offices in Binghamton. Caesar’s Entertainment, Las Vegas, is reported to be interested after having been dismissed in Massachusetts.  Rumor says the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe of Wisconsin is interested. A list like this will change week-to-week.

Conclusion It is sad indeed that voters were sold the amendment by being shown none of the debits, only the income.  In place of a cost-benefit analysis,  the electorate got the travesty of a benefit-only analysis.  New York State’s leaders and legislative followers sought  revenue at any cost, as long as the latter was out of sight.

Most of the debit side of the ledger springs from the formation of new gambling addicts and problem gamblers, creating a public health problem never recognized as such.  In a progressive state such as New York has been and should be, this would have been addressed by Health in All Policy.  HiAP is a fairly new concept, not the law of the land but gaining ground in North America (e.g. California and Ontario).  It came out of a 1998 resolution by the World Health Organization .  Basically, it requires that large – scale governmental policy have a health impact assessment before adoption.  New York State deliberately bypassed the responsibility to offer voters a traditional cost-benefit analysis of policy.  Just as deliberately the state passed up the challenge of  applying innovative HiAP.

It is impossible to predict exactly how many new problem gamblers will develop in the “up to seven casinos” future.  It is also impossible  that there will not be more of  them as our state gets more convenient casinos. Legislators hinted at the threat by putting some funding for treatment and prevention into the Upstate Gaming and Economic Development Act passed last June.  Then they withdrew attention.  No one in Albany made any estimate of the scope of the problem, thus zeroing it away.  If it has no size, it’s nothing.

200px-A-dressing_the_White_Queen

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”     Lewis Carroll,   Through the Looking Glass

 

 

Afterword on prevalence Even if the prevalences of  addiction  and  problem gambling could be shown by a crystal ball to be absolutely stable over (say) four years following the introduction  of casinos, that first phase has created  new disordered gamblers.   Every year, some gambling addicts and problem gamblers leave the “active prevalence” pool  through  recovery, death,  imprisonment, disabling illness or out-migration. Suppose this rate is truly 10% a year;  after  four years,  prevalence of active addiction  that began at (say)  1.14% should be down to 0.75%.  If  it is not, “replacement addicts” have entered the pool,   Some are in-migrants, some relapses, many newly-minted.

 

Studies that purport to find no statistically significant increase in the prevalence of (say) problem gambling over time after exposure rises may also be underpowered.  A study to detect with reasonable statistical power a near-doubling of  prevalence from 1.14% to a prevalence of 2.17% would require 2000 interviews at each point.  This is impossibly expensive for a public agency to do.  A study to detect a 25% increase from 0.0114 to 0.0142 would require 20,000 interviews at each point.  The increase seems less than minuscule, yet in a population of 15 million it represents 43,000 new addicts.  No wonder the gambling promoters have no fear of someone’s proving an increase in the prevalence of addiction and thus no fear of being held responsible for any ominous trends.

References

  1. From the Home Page of  NY Jobs Now http://www.nyjobsnow.com/index.php#benefits

NEW JOBS. MONEY FOR SCHOOLS. LOWER PROPERTY TAXES.

New Yorkers currently spend more than $1.2 billion a year at destination casinos in neighboring states. Allowing casinos in New York will keep a lot of that money right here in New York where it belongs — helping to generate economic activity, fund our schools, and provide tax relief.

On the ballot this November, Proposal 1 will ask voters to approve the casino plan passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature this spring.

2. Center for  Policy Analysis, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth: New England Casino    Gaming Update 2013.  Economic Development series no. 74

3. Shafer, Stephen Q. New Commercial Casinos Will Mean Thousands of New Gambling Addicts  Dec. 2012  http://cagnyinf.org/wp/new-casinos-equal-1000s-of-gambling-addicts/

4. Shafer, Stephen Q.  Measure Something: Prevalence of Pathological and of Problem Gamblers. http://cagnyinf.org/wp/9_nov_2013_measure_prevalence/

5. Earl L. Grinols. Gambling in America Cambridge University Press 2004 pp. 171-174.

6. Shaffer HJ, Hall MN, Vander Bilt J. Estimated Disordered Gambling Behavior in the United States and Canada Report to National Gambling Impact Study Final Report 1999  https://divisiononaddictions.org/html/publications/meta.pdf

7.  Welte JW et al. The Relationship of Ecological and Geographic Factors to Gambling Behavior.  J. Gambling Studies ( 2004) 20: 405-442

8. Grinols EL and  Omorov  JD.  Development or Dreamfield Delusions? Assessing Casino Gambling’s Costs and Benefits.  J. Law and Commerce 1996-97, vol 16 p 59

The drawing is captured from Wikipedia.  Original by John Tenniel for  Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, by Lewis Carroll

photograph of buckets is by Kevin Krebs from clickr.com photos 8561188366_eda5d758cf_

The author retired in 2010 as Clinical Professor of Neurology at Harlem Hospital Center, Columbia University. He has an M.P.H. in Epidemiology and an M.A. in Political Science gained while (1976-78) a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar in the Department of Medicine,  Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.  He is Chairperson of Coalition Against Gambling in New York,  a non-profit  registered in Buffalo.

Permission is hereby given to reproduce this post in whole or part as long as the permalink above is cited.

NYS-based Civil Society Organizations Opposed to Gambling Expansion

Watkins Gen, New York, October 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the November 5 referendum on casino gambling nears, Coalition  Against  Gambling in New York  (CAGNY)  is often asked “who’s with you?”   In  response we provide here a guide  to  non-profit organizations in New York State divided  into two sections  according to their position on government-sanctioned gambling.   These organizations are not formally members of our coalition. It consists of  individuals,  who may represent informally an organization.  Some of  the organizations listed below work  closely with us; others at arm’s length.  Some have a few members; the larger, denominational,  ones have hundreds of thousands among them.   We are privileged to all be aligned at this crucial time and beyond. This guide is not complete, but we believe the assemblage here represents well the spirit of New York State.

Oppose  gambling   expansion

Catholic  Conference September 2013

The Archdiocese of  New York  published the  statement of the Conference of Bishops as an editorial in Catholic New York  3 October 2013  

Council on Alcoholism and Addictions of the  Finger Lakes,  Geneva

Council on Addictions of  New York State,  Oneonta

Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Buffalo

Institute for American Values, New York

LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions,  Oneonta

Prevention Network of Central New York, Syracuse

Seaway Prevention Council, Ogdensburg

Steuben Council on Addictions, Bath

 

Urge a “NO” vote on   “Proposal  1”  to legalize 7 new  casinos

Casino-Free Sullivan County, Woodbourne   contact  joanthursh@gmail.com

Catskill Mountain Keeper, Youngsville

Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County (CACGEC), Buffalo contact joelrose@buffalo.edu

Coalition  Against  Gambling in New York (CAGNY), Buffalo

Conservative Party of New York State,  Brooklyn

Statement  of  the Right  Reverend William Love,  Bishop of  the Episcopal Diocese of Albany,   Greenwich

Statement of the Right Reverend Lawrence Provenzano, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, Garden City

Statement  of  the Right Reverend Andrew Dietsche, Bishop of the   Episcopal Diocese of New York,   New York

Statement  of  The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh VIII , Episcopal Bishop of Rochester can be requested by an e-mail to the Bishop.

Interfaith Alliance of  Rochester

Interfaith Impact of New York State,  Albany

New York State Council of Churches, Albany  read  statement here

New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation,   Spencerport

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, Spencerport

Network of Religious Communities, Buffalo

No Casino 1000 Islands, Wellesley Island contact  cwellinshphs@yahoo.com

Saratogians Against More Casinos in Our Town contact

No Saugerties Casino, Saugerties

Partnership for the Public Good, Buffalo

Sustainable Saratoga, Saratoga Springs

United Methodist Church, New York  Annual  Conference , White Plains

United Methodist Church, Upper New York  Annual  Conference ,  Syracuse

VOICE- Buffalo  contact france@buffalo.edu

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Photo of Watkins  Glen NY from flickr creative commons “looking-up-the-sky” 4002696878_b439720a72.jpg

list compiled by CAGNYEDITOR,  who is responsible for any errors.

 

Ballot stuff

vote8076635893_84a6a41e67_m

 

The letter immediately below was sent to the four Commissioners of the New York State Board of Elections on the letterhead of Coalition Against Gambling in New York and received at 40 N. Pearl on 28 October.  It requests them all to resign.

Below the text of the letter its signers review in detail the webcast of the meeting in which this lamentable chapter of New York election history emerged.  We also review the legislative history of the 1966 amendment that gave us “Lottery for education.”  It does not show the rewriting for which  “Proposal 1”  is now infamous.

New York State  Board of Elections
40 North Pearl Street, Suite 5, Albany, NY 12207 2729                  October   24 2013

James A. Walsh,  Co-Chairman
Douglas A. Kellner,  Co-Chairman
Evelyn J. Aquila,  Commissioner
Gregory P. Peterson,  Commissioner

re: “Proposal One”  2013 ballot language and position

Dear Commissioners:

The New York State Board of Elections is “charged with the preservation of citizen confidence in the democratic process and enhancement in voter participation in elections.”  By crafting  pro-amendment  language for Prop. One, the Board has betrayed our  trust.  You should resign.

An initial draft of Prop One (NY Times, 10/17)  read “The purpose of the proposed amendment to sec. 9 of article 1 of the constitution is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos.”  The Board added to this “for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?”

The Board did not make public the changes until the challenge period had elapsed. The Siena Poll of September 30 showed a huge effect of the added language, misrepresented by the Commissioners (p. 25) as  “minor revisions.”  Where “yes” and “no” had been tied when the earlier language was read, a gap of thirteen percentage points – landslide proportions – opened when respondents were read the adorned language.    In addition, the Board put the amendment into position one when it stood sixth by custom. The Board has made a mockery of a fair election.

The Coalition Against Gambling in New York  and  No Saugerties Casino call upon you, the Commissioners,  to resign forthwith.

Sincerely
s/  Arnold Lieber, MD                                                    s/ Stephen Q. Shafer MD, MPH, MA
Member, Exec. Comm. No Saugerties Casino             Chairperson, CAGNY

 

Background: As many citizens know, amending the NYS  Constitution without  a Constitutional Convention  requires two steps  by the Legislature, sometimes called first and second passage. “Second passage” sends the proposed amendment to  referendum at a General Election.  The resolutions passed for a second time on 21 June 2013  (A 8068 same as  S 5898)  were to  amend the existing prohibitions on  gambling to make an exception for

“CASINO GAMBLING AT NO MORE THAN SEVEN FACILITIES AS AUTHORIZED  AND  PRESCRIBED BY THE LEGISLATURE.”   [caps original].

Following the rules, this resolution was sent to the Attorney General for final approval and for the AG’s recommendation on how the ballot should be worded.  According to the New York Times, the first draft for the ballot said “The purpose of the proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the constitution is to allow the  Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos.  If approved, the amendment would permit commercial casino gambling in New York state.”  This version went from the AG to the Board of Elections on or around July 19.  The BOE made revisions during  the next week before their scheduled meeting of  29  July.  At that meeting they certified a rewording done in the previous week, after referring to  it as one of   two “minor changes”  among the six amendments whose language was to be certified.

When the certified language finally hit public awareness on  Sept 11, it was clear that the “minor change”  in “proposal 1”   was anything but minor.  A storm of   protest arose over what reporter Michael Gormley on that day called  “the rosy language,”  which ran thus:

“The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated.  Shall the amendment be approved?

The effect of the rewording was dramatically shown in a Siena Poll of September 30.  Respondents split 46-46 in reaction to the following version of the  amendment proposal  developed  by the poll itself:  “Do you support or oppose passing an amendment to the state constitution to allow non-Indian, Las Vegas style casinos to be built in New York?”  To the elaborated language above, however,  55% of respondents said yes and only 42% no.  A landslide-size gap of thirteen points had opened.

The BOE also elevated the measure from last of six proposals (where it belonged by custom, having been the last to gain.  This is a disgrace to New York State.

Using the webcast and transcription of the meeting we reviewed the crucial short interval in which the language for all of the six proposals is voted upon as certified and the order on the ballot set.

Position  on the ballot:  Co-Chairman  Kellner  is heard to say  (around 1:38:50 of the webcast provided by the BOE for the July 29 meeting)  “Because of the relatively high profile and substantial interest in the press on the casino gaming issue we decided it is in the best interest to list that first  …  to reduce potential voter confusion.”

Our comment:  Whose best interest?  Moving the casino amendment to the top line does not combat voter “confusion,”  but does give  special status.   Once the custom (last in second passage,  last on ballot) has been broken, or random ordering is not used, number  1 is obviously Somebody’s favorite.   This position is set to interact with catchy campaign slogans associating “yes”  with 1.  For (say) two measures the position effect is negligible; with six, considerable.

Wording   There is said to be precedent for the BOE to add to or change what the Attorney General’s office recommended to them,  though we have not seen examples.  Note well: the CONCURRENT RESOLUTION OF THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY   (S. Pr 906, A. Pr 1606. Jan 17 and 18 1966) that underlay the amendment passed that November to establish Lottery for education reads the same as the ballot word for word.  The ballot wording is therefore much longer than even the 54 words of “rosy language,”   but voters did see the same words the Legislature had voted on.

In the webcast  section where the Commissioners  discuss the revisions (ca. 1:37:30),  Mr. Brehm (Co-Exec Director)  is reciting changes in two of the amendments from the language sent by the AG.  Only two amendments coming from the AG  were rewritten by the BOE.  One editing was to remove the redundant words “even more” from the proposed amendment about veterans’ benefits.  Mr Brehm  then  says, “with regard to the gaming, which is number 1  … to .. um  when Co-Chair Kellner cuts in to say  “review the legislative purposes that were included in the underlying statute.”

We as citizens, not lawyers, now ask “What was the underlying statute?”

The second passage resolutions of June 2013  (same for  both  chambers)  were to  amend the prohibition on  gambling in article I sec 9 to allow  “CASINO GAMBLING AT NO MORE THAN SEVEN FACILITIES AS AUTHORIZED  AND  PRESCRIBED BY THE LEGISLATURE.”    To us, this is the “underlying statute.”  Its legislative purposes are clear. Technically  this is a resolution, not a bill.

The legislators knew voters would not like an amendment so open-ended as the fifteen words above; so, they developed the 220 pages of the  Upstate New York Gaming and Economic Development Act of 2013 (UNYGEDA) as a road map to sketch fiscal projections and write regulations on a practice that when the act was passed was, and still is, illegal in New York.  Sad to say, this act is written in mud, not stone.  However tightly UNYGEDA has been grafted onto the proposed amendment, it is not what the electorate is supposed to be voting on, which is the proposal to legalize seven casinos.

The phrases added by BOE  “to review the legislative purposes that were included in the underlying statute”  do  reflect  the aims of the amendment’s promoters.  These might by a stretch be called “legislative purposes.”  They are campaign promises, however, not statements of fact.   It is a fact that a successful transportation bond issue will pay for materials and labor to improve highways and bridges.  It is fond hope, not fact,  that seven casinos will “promote job growth.”   It  is a fact that by the provisions of UNYGEDA revenue to government from casinos can be designated for “aid to schools” or for  “permitting local governments to lower property taxes.”  These apparent benefits, however, are not provably greater than the hidden social costs due to  adding casinos to the NYS economy instead of sincerely trying to reduce problem gambling in New York State.  We believe they are much less.  These apparent benefits are deceptive.  As one commentator said, “it’s like balancing your checkbook by entering only deposits.”

We understand the complexity of all these casino amendment issues, understand that it would hardly be possible to put detailed pros and cons for even one amendment (still less, six) onto a ballot without daunting voters.  All the more reason, then, to stick with terse, neutral language.

Moving the amendment up the ladder and slanting  its language  interact strongly “in the best interest” not of a fair voting process but of those who desperately want the amendment passed.

The Board of Elections has failed signally in its duty to the People of New York State.  The four commissioners  should resign immediately.

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photo captioned “vote” is from flickr creative commons

The request  in the letter is endorsed by the Boards of Coalition Against Gambling in New York and No Saugerties Casino.  Permission to quote from this post or to reproduce in whole or part is hereby granted as long as the permalink above is cited

Disposition of Revenues from Casino Taxes: a Projection

 

Goya:  El Sueno de Razon

Goya: El Sueno de la Razon Produce Monstruos

 

 

 

Disposition of Revenues to New York State Residents from Casino Taxes per Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013: a Projection

 

 

 

On Monday, Sept 23 2013 at 12:01 AM EDT,  Coalition Against Gambling in New York released a report of high interest to all New York State voters and taxpayers.  Governor Cuomo has touted the proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize casinos as a benefit to all New Yorkers.  Now dubbed “Proposal One,”  it will be presented with heavy bias on the ballot for  a “yes” vote. Click on the link right below to read opinion of the NY Daily News about the ballot langauge.  http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/house-wins-article-1.1454344

The framers of “Proposal One”  must hope voters won’t have thought about pros and cons until they enter the booth.  To counter this deliberate neglect by the casino promoters, we made conservative assumptions to project the impact of the amendment’s  passage on property tax bills around  the state. 

In our projections, if the amendment passes, the  benefits (as property tax relief or aid to education) to individuals from taxes on casinos’ gaming revenue would vary enormously (by more than twenty-fold) from place to place.   The size of these disparities is not rationalized in the legislation that prescribes them.   These tax relief measures if enacted  would hardly change the personal property tax situation for a majority of the state’s population.   We project, for example,  that if 80% of  the taxes paid to the state by four  exceptionally busy new casinos  were disbursed uniformly to the  whole state entirely as property tax relief, residents of “downstate” (NYC, L.I., Westchester, Rockland and Putnam) would have just $20  of relief per adult per year.    The “relief” to more than 99% of taxpayers if the amendment passes would  be less than the conservatively-projected  increase in hidden quantifiable social costs of legalized gambling to be expected from adding “up to seven”  new casinos.  In short, for almost all New Yorkers in relation to taxes cons >> pros.

Readers can develop their own scenarios and projections using our straightforward methods.  

Click on the link to see a pdf of the 22-page report, divided into Summary, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusions and Appendix.     UNYGEDASept22_Final

This version varies slightly from that sent to members of the press and other media on Sept 18 in advance of release to the public in early morning of Monday Sept 23.  Changes are shown at the end.  

Opinions in this piece are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of any or all other members of Coalition Against Gambling in New York. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this post  in whole or part as long as there is a citation to the permalink above. Corresponding author is Dave Colavito ddcolavito@gmail.com .  You may request a pdf version of the report by e-mail.

 

 

 

New York State is Addicted

Despair

New York State is addicted to revenues from gambling.  This is not just a figure of speech. Below are hallmarks obvious in the state’s behavior over the 47 years since its Constitution was amended to allow a lottery with periodic drawings and paper tickets.  In November another amendment, to permit “up to seven” casinos, will be on the ballot statewide. Intervention is needed.

  • craving
  • upping the dose
  • seeking short-term rewards e.g. “aid to education” without an uptick in personal or business tax rates.
  • discounting adverse effects  Problem gambling in New York drains from society  more than 3.5 billion dollars a year in quantifiable socio-economic costs like judicial administration, lowered productivity, and abused dollars.  This amount excludes suicide, proceeds of crime and psychosocial harm to the dozen or so individuals who are betrayed by every problem gambler in “the chase.”  No state official ever acknowledges the size of this problem.  The econometrics are in Gambling in America (Cambridge University Press, 2004) by Earl L. Grinols, Distinguished Professor of Economics at Baylor.
  • denying long term liabilities (e.g. spectre of fiscal flop with saturation, need for bailout à la NJ or DE, future inroads by internet gambling)
  • scoffing at the diagnosis “There’s nothing wrong with me!”
  • dismissing prospects of recovery  
  • cheating (e.g. allowing as if they are video lottery terminals (VLTs) hybrid electronic table games with outcomes not under the control of Lottery’s central processing unit.  See New York Daily News May 5 and 12, 2013. Another more recent example: rewriting the text of the amendment   to be on November ballot to make it an advertisement for a yes vote and boosting the proposal from the sixth slot where it belongs by date of passage into the “number one” slot.
  • deceiving e.g. pretending  increased regional cash throughput is “economic development”  Another example: saying that government regulation of commercial casinos will prevent the creation and exploitation of problem gamblers. In fact, government wants tough regulation to protect itself from being cheated, not to end problem gambling.   Half of casino revenues flow from the 4% of adults who are problem gamblers.  The casino owners don’t want to stop mining this mother lode, nor would tax-collectors like a 50% drop in revenues to the state. Even the most credulous person will realize that “regulation” in this situation is  programmed to fall far short of stated intentions.
  • scheming and manipulating  item, conceding money due to the state, localities and private citizens to deflect Indian opposition to potential competitors; item, promising a piece of commercial casino revenues not to “education” nor to “local property tax relief” but to horse-breeding and tracks if legalized casinos “cannibalize” racino gambling
  • conniving “If a law is in your way, get rid of it.”
  • dealing in a desperate and dishonorable way to keep “the connection.”  The Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013 authorized additional video gaming establishments under Lottery if the casino amendment does not pass.  A spokesperson for the Governor (see Wall Street Journal June 15) offered ball-park figures: three to four “upstate” facilities with up to 5000 machines each.  This would more than double the state’s current battery.  The same bill enacted, regardless of the amendment’s outcome, additional VLT facilities “downstate.” Curious, for a bill denoted “Upstate.”

New York State is not addicted in the sense that its whole government is preoccupied each day with raising revenue from gambling. Nor is a large proportion of total revenue to the state from that source.  It’s less than 3%. That the state is a high-functioning addict still able to multi-task does not excuse its being addicted nor give assurance that its dependence will not get worse.

New York is not alone.  Many states and Canadian provinces are addicted too.  All show typical denial. Nowhere but in NY, however, do voters statewide have the chance in 2013 to call the addiction just that and say “Let’s start to ‘Recover New York.’”

Most people, even if they have never been in one, know what an intervention is, how it can launch recovery before catastrophe has struck.   New York needs an intervention now. Rejecting the proposed amendment at the General Election is a good start. Sad to say that’s all it can be.  The intervenors have no leverage here. The addict has a big stash locked in the garage and no intention of handing it over or entering treatment.

I personally regret NYS has the “casino referendum” because opponents may be outspent >1000 to 1 as is happening in Massachusetts and the public bamboozled.  Now that the Governor and his legislature have brought us the referendum, though, we can and must use it to confront our government, challenge it to lead recovery from gambling addiction the way it leads on recovery from natural disaster,

Photo image “Despair” from flickr creative commons 3503412461_815c19b748

Opinions in this piece are those of the writer, Stephen Shafer,  and do not necessarily reflect the views of any or all other members of CAGNY.  Permission to reproduce in whole or part is hereby granted as long as the permalink above is cited.

Q and A on Predatory Gambling in New York

Kollwitz  Woman with Dead Child

Kollwitz Woman with Dead Child

A Dialogue on Predatory Gambling for New York State

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q You say that 1.4% of adults are gambling addicts and another 2.6% ,problem gamblers.  I accept  that this 4% are out of control,  are a drawdown  on  society.   Yet  4% is not a lot.  Why should the other 96%  be kept from doing something they can control ? 

 R Defeat of  the “casino amendment” in November would  not deprive that 96% of access to legalized predatory gambling.   New Yorkers, as the Governor said last year.
are surrounded by it.  There are thousands of Lottery outlets, more than a dozen “racinos” (which the Governor said in his May 9 2013 press conference are basically casinos) and five class III tribal casinos with table games staffed by humans.  Nearby  states are flush with casinos or about to build them.

Q  But many gamblers want full-fledged casinos.  That’s why people say parking lots at casinos in nearby states are full of cars and buses from NY.   The hidden costs those visitors rack up are externalized (“charged to”)  NY society,  yet all of the money left behind stays in other states  as casino profits  and  taxes on  gaming revenue.  If NYS is to get a piece of the action on its own residents and “own” tourists,   give us new casinos in-state.

R  If  new casinos in NYS could recapture 100% of the traffic now going out-of -state without creating new gambling addicts or problem gambler, NYS would have less net loss from gambling than now.  It  would  still not be near  break-even.  Worse, convenient casinos will create gambling addicts and problem gamblers.  The recapture solution to out- of-state travel  then becomes part of the problem.

Q You are a prohibitionist. 

R  Not really.  Opponents  of  the gambling amendment  are not trying in 2013 to close every gambling  joint in the state.  We just want to make access to casinos for NYS residents and visitors no easier than it is now. 

Q Come on!   You want to deny 100%  of  New Yorkers a benefit  because  4%  can’t take care of themselves.  That’s letting the tail wag the dog!

R  The dark side of convenience is the unavoidable creation of new addicts and problem gamblers.  How strong the effect is across all settings cannot be reliably stated.  Intuition says that a single casino set  in a metropolis previously casino-free will create more problem gamblers than a similar one new to a rural area in which there is already a casino 30 miles away.  Twice as many?  Five times?  Ten times? No one can say. 

Q  OK.  NYS would add some more gambling addicts; we already have 170,000,     What’s a few more?

Q  “Few”  may be thousands, and none of them “is an island entire of itself.*”  The evil of  predatory gambling is not just torment to the problem gamblers whom the cartel exploits  for high profit; it is the damage to innocent people who trust them – spouses and domestic partners, children, parents, siblings, other relatives,  neighbors, business associates,  financial institutions like banks, credit unions or insurance agencies.  For every problem gambler there are seventeen other parties affected, wrote Politzer et al ** , citing Lesieur.  They are never affected to the good.  Those who condone predatory gambling consider expendable — worthless — everyone in the circle of misery around a problem gambler. That is a lot of people in this state: millions.  A society cannot allow this and be just or even pretend to be.

*John Donne, Meditation 17 (1624)

** Politzer Robert M. et al.  The Epidemiologic Model and the Risk of Legalized Gambling: Where Are We Headed? Health Values (1992)  vol.  16 no. 2: 20-27.

Woman with Dead Child, etching by Kathe Kollwitz, is  owned by the National Gallery of Art.  This image is in the public domain.

Permission is hereby granted by CAGNYEDITOR to reproduce this text in whole or part as long as as the permalink above is cited.

Crapping Out in New York: For Education

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By Dave Colavito.  first published in Huffington Post July 12 

Whether NY voters consent to amend the state constitution to expand gambling is something that will likely be decided in November. What’s certain is “Gambling for Education” will remain a trusted brand for Governor Cuomo and his handlers. The problem is the subtext: Gambling is Good for the Kids — unlike adequate nutrition, adolescent problem gambling won’t help build strong bodies or healthy minds.

Most adults appreciate the invaluable service carnival barking provides in the service of Albany’s gambling policies — how else do you keep convincing losers they’ll win, so long as they keep losing? But when it comes to educating the kids, voters know the importance of leading by example. So before heading to the polls in November, it’s worth considering whether more of the Albany example is really in their best interest.

State-sponsored gambling is already here, as are other permitted activities. But a proposal for the state-sponsored expansion of say, cigarette smoking or sugary junk food in schools would be roundly rejected and hailed as a public policy victory. Why — not everyone eating such junk food becomes diabetic, and its marketing surely contributes to the state’s economy and creates jobs? The answer assuredly has to do with education. And though Albany is a partner in educating children, it’s a deeply conflicted partner by virtue of its promotion of gambling.

Continue reading

“Poison pill” in Upstate Gaming Act of 2013

5329333422_f79c211100_m alien            Surrender ! Resistance is futile !

The upcoming referendum on whether to amend the NYS constitution and allow “up to seven casinos as prescribed by the legislature” has been subverted by  Governor Cuomo, turned into  an  ultimatum  to all who oppose the  amendment for its expansion of  predatory gambling.  ” Heads I win, tails you lose.”    New Yorkers, even those who favor the amendment,  should be  horrified.  This behavior  belongs to a despot or a cartoon  alien invading the planet, not to a Governor who proclaimed he wants  the people to say yes or no to amending the constitution.  What  happened ?  

Simply put, if the amendment fails, Lottery gets carte blanche to expand instead.   The “Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013,”  passed on 21 June as S 5883 (same as  A 8101), provides in section 32 a. (3)  that if the amendment does not pass referendum, Lottery is authorized to operate  an unspecified number of new Video Lottery Terminal (VLT)   facilities of unspecified size,  not necessarily at race tracks.  The VLT facilities provided for in this  hedge plan would go into the three “regions” of “zone 2” that are not excluded by compacts with Indians, viz. Catskills + Hudson Valley,   Eastern Southern Tier and  Capital Region.  An article originating with AP in Albany  http://online.wsj.com/article/APbabc9a4fefdc488cb8a30eb9ec800e12.html    cites possible numbers (three or four upstate) and possible sizes (up to five thousand VLTs each).  These numbers are not in the bill, but were softly confirmed by a spokesperson for the Governor on June 19. 

Thus a successful  fight against  the amendment would be punished by the imposition of a gambling system probably no better  for New York’s people than  “up to seven” casinos.  [There is no reason to think Lottery would stop at four new slot barns; that was a trial balloon on one day in June.]

The hedge plan unveiled in June was probably  mostly  a “poison pill” for two readily identifiable groups to which  the amendment could bring damaging competition.  One was the Seneca Nation, which as of June 12 was  not yet  “in good standing.”  The next day, however,  the Nation  moved into that status. http://www.indianz.com/IndianGaming/2013/026500.asp    Now assured of no new competition in their territory,  they would cease to  threaten  the amendment.  The  pill was no longer toxic to them.  The other group, the  New York Gaming Association (the racino lobby)   had come out on June 10th  against the Governor’s Program Bill, as it was then called.  [To see that press release, which on the web site is undated,  go to their web site and click on press releases .  http://www.newyorkgaming.org/Home.aspx    ]  NYGA  voiced fears that new casinos would take away 85% of their action.  They  were quickly placated with changes ensuring that the horse industry would not take a loss in  the large (> $200 million last year) income stream it counts  on from racino  VLTs.   Any new casinos  would have to pitch in to keep parity.  Not long before June 21, the NYGA reversed its stand in a second press release [also on their web site, undated].

The “poison pill,”  in Section 32 was made by developments around mid-June less baneful  to the two richest groups that want predatory gambling in NYS but not competition.  It still  had   had potency as of voting day, June 21.  It could  deter opposition to the  amendment  that might spring up if any of the May-June agreements with Indian casino operators fell through before Election Day.  On out-of-state casino interests, however, it would probably have little effect.    Though expected by many to work [under false flags]  against the amendment, these groups  would would not see section 32 as virulent to them.   They  would surely prefer that if NYS must  boost its  predatory gambling it go with slot barns, not  full-scale casinos. 

The constituency to which the poison pill is most bitter and potentially paralyzing is opponents of predatory gambling.  We are perhaps collateral casualties of the Governor’s tactics  to neutralize, or actually turn,  rich profit-seeking opponents of the amendment . Or (this may be  folie de grandeur)  the Governor  sees us as a threat to his objective, a threat that needs to be squashed.   We don’t need to know.   In either case,  the Governor and those who craft his bills  have done  their utmost to make the referendum meaningless.      Instead of a plebiscite on whether to amend the constitution it has become a double bind: casinos or  VLT barns.    See the New York Post http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/editorials/gambling_man_FRWmSBGiGVE5KXK1w58IcM

The  VLT  barn  hedge plan has been latent since September  2001, when the legislature  at the urging of Gov. Pataki  authorized   thousands of  VLTs  at racetracks as  “racinos.”  In the words of Gov. Cuomo (May 9 press conference)  “The racinos were created to get around,  frankly, the existing state law and they were in many ways created as a loophole, but for all intents and purposes they are a casino.”     Why VLT proliferation was not Gov. Cuomo’s plan  A  for gambling expansion is for speculation.  Let’s suppose that in early 2012 he truly  believed  (unlike us) that casinos bring “economic development”  that VLT barns would not.  Let’s credit him with a desire to play by the rules and respect the Constitution,  as long as he looks like winning. This wish foundered in June 2013 when polls showed his approval rating going down and no clear margin of victory for a future amendment.   Time for the ace in the hole.  

Coalition Against Gambling in New York will oppose the amendment even if the hedge plan in section 32  forces  an odious alternative to casinos.  If the amendment fails as it deserves to, we and other groups allied against predatory gambling will seek legislation  to amend  section 32 and defang it.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the writer, Stephen Q. Shafer and do not necessarily reflect opinions of all members of CAGNY.  Permission  is granted to reproduce this text in whole or part as long as the permalink attached is cited.