Two Downstate Racinos Are Downstate Casinos Now

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        For  practical purposes, there are at least two non-tribal full-service casinos operating today in New York State. If that surprises you, read on.   The facilities at Aqueduct  and at Yonkers call themselves casinos yet pose as “racinos.”  In my opinion they are real casinos, cleverly disguised as “racinos.”   They don’t have human croupiers or dealers, but offer table games in which the outcome of a play is governed by the same  laws of physics that determine the outcome of a throw or spin  by a human being.  Such table games are billed as part of lottery.  I say  they are illegal.  What’s your opinion?   

     An editorial in the New York Daily News May 5 showed that at Resorts World Casino (Aqueduct Racino) “electronic table games” of craps, Bo-Sic, roulette,  and baccarat are bringing in a good part of the “video gaming” revenues. 

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/playing-games-law-article-1.1334713

     I am not a lawyer, but was persuaded by the carefully-researched editorial and by my own reading of the opinion of the Appeals Court in 2005 that these games are not permitted under the present New York State Constitution.  Though operated by NYS Lottery, they do not meet the definition of “lottery” in the same way as do video lottery terminals (VLTs).

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The Albany Gambling Diet

albanydiet  The Albany Gambling Diet

Thoughts on Healthier Eating

by

David Colavito

 

 

 

     When you consider how injurious the socioeconomic consequences of state-sponsored gambling are, compared to its benefits, you have to ask why Governor Cuomo is promoting the expansion of casino gambling, let alone as economic development.  Sure, “gambling is already here” and “New York needs jobs” – neither is in dispute.  And used as they are to promote the Governor’s plan, they’re certainly appealing.  That’s the sweet side of half-truths many of us prefer to our vegetables.  But if Albany isn’t serving a balanced meal, it’s in our interests to understand why.  I’m suggesting it’s a failure of imagination. 

    The thesis has been with me for some time and came into sharper focus recently while reading False Idyll, an essay by J.B. MacKinnon.  Dealing with an unrelated topic, MacKinnon’s words struck me as eerily apropos to the social injustice inherent to the casino economy – “…  the way you see the world determines much about the world you are willing to live in …“ 

    And because I choose to be generous in spirit, I choose to believe Governor Cuomo’s promotion of the casino economy is rooted more in how he sees the world rather than in the belief he can make it better.  It’s an unfortunate conclusion, considering what life would still be like if others before him had constrained their own imaginations when confronted with the same choice on important public policy matters: emancipation and suffrage to name just two.

    And though you might argue Mr. Cuomo’s recent policy commitments to gun control and gay marriage render my thesis flawed, I’d respond by saying perhaps you’re correct, but unlike for example integration in the south, I don’t think either would have occurred without strong political winds blowing at Mr. Cuomo’s back.  Regardless, what really matters is the facts of the casino economy, their implications for social injustice, and Mr. Cuomo’s refusal to acknowledge either in his pursuit to fill state coffers.  All of which is also to say, his fixation on the gambling economy is apt subject material for an as-yet conceived book to be titled after MacKinnon’s essay.

    So, what might we imagine if enough people in Albany saw the world more through the lens of what it could be rather than the way it is?   Given that the majority of casino gambling revenue dollars come from the minority of gamblers with serious gambling disorders, would lawmakers continue to endorse expanding that predatory business model to increase state revenues?  And given the well-established relationship that increased opportunity to gamble produces more people with serious gambling disorders, would they continue promoting state policies that cultivate making people sick to balance budgets?  Or, might they instead work to formulate policies that mitigate the interstate impacts of gambling so often used to conscript state residents in a race-to-the-bottom casino economy?  I think we know what they’d choose.  And there’s also recent precedence for pursing equally important objectives.  Consider, for example, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Regardless of where you come down on the 2nd amendment debate, Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t just believe in the need for federal gun policies that don’t undermine those of states; he’s a fierce advocate for them in Washington.

    Still shooting for the stars you say?  How about then just punting for the moon?  Albany could acknowledge a false premise it uses to pursue expanding the failed policy of state-sponsored gambling, though I suspect it isn’t spoken aloud there often.  It’s the keystone for the arch of my thesis – “we’re desperate; what else can we do if we don’t promote gambling?”

    The answer is, plenty. 

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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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“Lottery for Education” Steals a Good Name

6007594833_b6983433f0rockhorse photo FlickrCC 6007594833_b6893433f0rockhorse.jpg 

The New York State Lottery generates revenue to government outside the tax stream that goes directly “to education.”  This special fund, however, is not as most people thought in 1966 it would be, to enhance “education” above subsistence level.  It’s more like a reserve called  every year.  Used thus, it frees for  other expense sectors (e.g. pensions, welfare) money from taxes put into the General Fund that would have gone to “education.”  This can be called “total budget fungibility.”   

Compare government-sponsored lottery to the unpopular revenue-booster  of  increase in conventional taxes:  it looks to the average tax-payer like finding money in the street.  It is not.  It is socially unjust in taking money disproportionately from the less affluent.   It is two or three-fold  more expensive when hidden quantifiable socioeconomic costs are factored in.  Big-time predatory gambling like NYSL also leaves in its path untold harm that cannot be quantified, including family breakup and suicide.   In 2013 we face the spectre that newly-legalized casinos will be hailed, like Lottery, as benefactors to “education” and therefore to NY residents.   They would  be wolves in sheep’s clothing.   Continue reading

Letter to Legislators about Proposed Amendment

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The letter below was written to be distributed to all NYS legislators on the morning before the Governor’s State of the State Message.  The three casinos “upstate”  he projected in the SOSM   we can see would create fewer gambling addicts than (say) five in the Metropolitan area.  This “phase I ” scenario, however, does not rule out a second phase with  four casinos south of “upstate.”   to compete with casinos in neighboring states.  Nothing is off the table.  The Governor’s discussion of the amendment  was a trial balloon..  The amendment is a terrible idea, but if it is to go  to referendum the Governor and his appointees should not be calling the shots.

 Dear Legislator:                                                                                                          

Even if new to the Legislature, you don’t need an alert or reminder to know that soon you will consider in committee or on the floor “second passage” of S06734.  Enacted on March 14, 2012, this was a proposal to amend Article 1, Sec. 9 of the NYS Constitution to allow “no more than seven” casinos to be built “as prescribed by the Legislature.”  If a like bill is passed by both chambers in 2013, the proposal to amend will be put to public referendum.

 Coalition Against Gambling in New York (CAGNY) believes this amendment would create tens of thousands of new addicted gamblers and problem gamblers.  The figures for this forecast can be seen and downloaded at    http://tinyurl.com/aas2tew The harm to each person so affected would be multiplied by eight or ten times as family, friends, and associates are inextricably caught up in the misery…. or have to flee it!

CAGNY observes  that the Governor, who urged this amendment early in 2012, has ignored the collateral damage from “recapturing,” by new in-state casinos, gamblers who have been going out of state.  In not acknowledging  this collateral damage, he says in effect that thousands of NYS residents are expendable.  Do you believe that too?

You will hear over and over that “the State needs the money.”  CAGNY does not deny that the State needs money.  We don’t deny, either,  that governments at times  lay out money putting  lives at risk—soldiers and first responders, for example.  We do hold that government should never plan a revenue-raising strategy that exploits illness and misery in its people !  Government  should never on purpose enable life-threatening addictions!

 We don’t know when the vote will be.  In the days to come, however, we will return to your door often with more handbills that show why a “no” on second passage is a vote for truly good government.  We’ll try to meet with you in person. We welcome your questions and your requests for detailed background.  Feel free to call 917-453-7371 or e-mail our Chairperson at sqs@columbia.edu.

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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