More than half of respondents to this week's RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll oppose amending New York's constitution to allow an expansion of casino gambling.
The referendum proposal says the constitutional amendment "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."
Legislation signed July 30 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, would limit the initial expansion to a total of four upstate casinos in three regions: the Hudson Valley-Catskill area, the Capital District-Saratoga area, and the Central-Southern Tier. No additional destination gaming resorts would be licensed for at least seven years.
Snap Poll respondents oppose the constitutional amendment by 53 percent to 47 percent. A similar majority-55 percent-opposes having casino gambling in the city of Rochester or its suburbs.
The state constitution currently prohibits private, non-Indian casino gambling. However, New York has five upstate casinos owned by Indian tribes and nine racinos at racetracks such as Finger Lakes Racetrack and Casino. (The Seneca Nation of Indians recently announced a deal with Flaum Rochester LLC to examine whether a gambling and hospitality venue would work in Henrietta.)
Cuomo and other supporters maintain that gambling resorts would boost tourism and economic development while providing revenues-to be shared by all localities statewide-for increased education aid or lower property taxes. "For too many years, gaming revenue has left New York for our neighboring states," he said.
Opponents question the economic benefits of casinos and point to social ills associated with gambling.
In February, a similar question was asked, with similar results. More than half of respondents to that RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll opposed putting a casino in downtown Rochester. Of the 55 percent opposed, 37 percent said they strongly oppose.
The results contrast with attitudes in August 2011, when 63 percent of respondents to an RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll favored legalizing private, non-Indian casino gambling in New York.
Roughly 730 readers participated in this week's poll, conducted Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
Do you favor or oppose changing the state constitution to allow up to seven non-Indian casinos in New York?
Would you favor or oppose having casino gambling in the city of Rochester or its suburbs?
I am a native of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and former resident of Oneida. Anyone who believes that gambling is an economic panacea should visit these two communities. Hey, I've got an idea! Let’s reduce the cost of doing business in this state! A really novel idea, I guess.
—J.P. Gleason, Gleason Fund Raising Consultants
I am in favor only if it lowers taxes. However, I seriously doubt it will lower our taxes because the state will find some way to use it to grow state government instead. Large revenue streams are way too enticing for the state to keep its grubby hands off.
Aren’t eight gaming facilities within a two-hour drive of Rochester adequate? Why not just allow table games at the existing non-Indian sites instead of adding more venues?
—Lou Calarese, Applied Audio & Theatre Supply
Gambling casinos only favor those who own them and over time ruin people’s lives. They don't contribute anything to the neighborhoods they locate in and in fact have (been) shown to cause beneficial businesses to move out because casinos don't attract people that want to shop or dine out—only gamble. Our state would do better making our environment more inviting for manufacturing companies that produce products that people want to buy, that would benefit their lives and create good paying jobs. Casinos do not offer good-paying jobs nor a good future for them or their families.
While casinos promote a morally reprehensible part of life as we know it, I understand that it will exist. I tolerate the promotion of gambling as a revenue generator for government (think Powerball) or as a way to feebly repay the Native American population our forefathers brutalized and stole from. If they can be bought off by collecting money from degenerate gamblers, so be it. However, if we allow this expansion of gambling, we once again screw our native peoples, take advantage of the poor and create these jobs that serve no one. Hmmm. I'm guessing the average politician is saying, "Sounds like he's all for it!"
Has anyone been to Niagara Falls lately? New York State or Ontario?
Let's put our time, energy and money into things that help people. It will benefit some investors, but there are other options without the obvious liabilities.
—Jeff Schuetz, Mitchell Pierson Jr. Realtors
There is nothing good about casinos, except for the government that makes millions off them and the politicians who make campaign contributions from the vendors supplying them. Cuomo's deal reeks of backroom arrangements that will likely never see the light of day. The wording of the referendum by Cuomo's lackeys at the Board of Elections makes the vote a fixed game. The losers are the largely low-income patrons who are losing the money they cannot afford to lose. Economic development from casinos is a myth unless you are a destination spot like Las Vegas, which frankly we are not going to be.
A fool and his money are soon parted.
—Steve Wichtowski, Honeoye
I am not an opponent of organized gambling, though personally I am not interested in it. However, the state government is putting so much emphasis on it as an instrument of economic growth; I wonder if it has forgotten that real economic expansion comes from growing manufacturing and construction businesses. The only true way to do that is to make New York a lot less hostile to traditional businesses.
—Mike Kaser, Penfield
Repurpose the Medley Center, High Falls or Sibley Building. Why Henrietta?
—Greg Reynolds, East Rochester
Brings more misery than they are worth. Not to mention, do we really want our New York State government to expand their gambling enterprise. They are supposed to be running the state, not vices.
Look at the casinos in Niagara Falls and try to figure out how it has helped that down-and-out city. Look at the casinos along the Boardwalk in Atlantic City and try to figure out how they have helped that down-and-out city. Las Vegas has one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States. Only the most naive think casinos will bring in tons of money so we can have it all and pay lower taxes. They are a cruel hoax.
I've yet to see any non-political, non-partisan, third-party study that shows that casinos add anything to a community's overall well-being. When weighed against the personal losses, addictions, crime, etc., I don't believe that there can be a positive net effect.
Casinos provide an entertainment venue that can boost tourism and downtown economic growth. The governor's proposal to reduce taxes is also welcome, but history shows that our taxes don't ever go down; we just evade the next hike. Any proposals should promote the development of walkable destinations rather than the traditional model of inward, self-focused development such as retail and dining. Fostering supporting businesses in an urban fabric or walkable neighborhood concept will help local business grow and promote visible vitality in the streets. Visible vitality reduces crime and promotes the value of the destination. The governor should also be encouraged to include Rochester, or we could miss an opportunity for growth that will happen elsewhere.
—Allen Rossignol, AIA Edge Architecture
Bring it on, and don't limit it to four—not benefiting upstate (as usual for most things). Get it up and running ASAP; get the construction jobs on board ASAP.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
While I have no doubt the short-term economic impact would be great, I see a disturbing long-term effect on the area. Typically those supporting these establishments are those who can't afford it (like me).
Casinos may be profitable, but the means do not justify the end. Casinos prey on addictions to gambling, drinking and other unsavory activities. They can victimize the poor, the very young and elderly who least understand that the game is rigged against them and their dreams of instant riches. There have to be better ways to raise money.
I absolutely approve the concept. Whether people agree with gambling or not, it will continue and there is revenue to be made. Especially in the Rochester area, it is important to realize that if city/county leaders do not agree to move this project forward we will see the same scenario as Eastview Mall. If people remember, the developers of Eastview Mall wanted to locate in the town of Perinton but they became frustrated with local leadership and decided to build the mall just outside the Monroe County border. The majority of the patrons of the mall were, and still are, Monroe County residents. Now all of the tax revenue goes to Ontario County instead of staying with Monroe County. The same scenario will likely occur with the casino—the casino will be built just outside the Monroe County border and most of the patrons and corresponding revenue will also leave Monroe County and a neighboring county will reap the benefits from Monroe County residents. Let's stop talking about it, stop screwing around and do something about our fiscal situation. This is a good risk to take. Put conditions on the casino developer so that the casino is the only thing that gets built—no hotel, no full-service restaurant. The biggest complaint regarding casinos is that they destroy the viability of neighboring businesses. By not allowing a restaurant or hotel to be built with the casino, all the nearby land will become extremely valuable development sites for hotels, restaurants, retail, etc. Offer the casino to keep a slightly larger percentage of their gross receipts than the normal arrangement in exchange for not building their hotel and restaurant.
I don't really "favor" casinos, per se. I don't favor gambling, nor gambling addiction. I do favor doing SOMETHING to ease our tax burdens. Niagara Falls, N.Y, where I was born, learned years too late that casinos are a huge tourist draw, and watched probably millions and millions of dollars cross the bridge to Ontario.
—Margie Campaigne, Ignite
New York State is bankrupt both financially and morally. The best way to resolve the financial bankruptcy is to halt new inductees into the state workers' retirement and health plans, switching instead to a 401K type plan and high-deductible health care like everyone else. Of course this will never happen due to union control of the state, so non-union workers will continue to have to take money from their families to pay for someone else...income redistribution. As this cannot ever change with a liberally controlled state, why not casinos? They may reduce the burden on non-union families, but my guess is all they will accomplish is to increase the benefits paid to state workers. Remember the Lottery? That helped NYS schools, right? No. All it did was offset funds already earmarked for schools and moved that money into the general fund to be spent elsewhere. Can we talk about the New York State Teachers' union next? How's that standardized testing working out in the city schools? LOL.
—Michael Higgins, Rochester
For too long, the gambling monies and good jobs associated with casinos have left the Rochester area and New York State for Canada, Atlantic City and even Pennsylvania, Ohio and Las Vegas. There are some potential problems with casinos, but they are controllable, treatable and they don't supersede the potential gains from a casino. I don't gamble, but I support building a casino in Rochester or Henrietta. A gamble on a new casino would sure be better than the sure things from our recent Mayors: the Fast Ferry and Midtown Plaza. And a casino wouldn't cost any public money.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services P.C.
I believe that we already have the base for gambling at Batavia Downs and Fingerlakes. How about expanding it at these sites, rather than creating a new infrastructure and bureaucracy. As far as Monroe County is concerned, and the city of Rochester, let’s focus on the educational disaster in the city schools.
—Dennis Kiriazides, retired
Pathological and problem gamblers in the United States cost society roughly $5 billion per year and an additional $40 billion in lifetime costs for productivity reductions, social services and creditor losses. However, these calculations are inadequate to capture the intra-familial costs of divorce and family disruption associated with problem and pathological gambling. Source: University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC 1999).
—Rob Flum, Symantec Corp.
Casinos are, quite simply, a diversion from real economic development issues. Given the proliferation of existing casinos in the region, a new casino will not draw in new money from outside the region. A new casino would probably be able to make a good profit for itself, but it would not be a net economic gain for anyone else. We need to focus on attracting a growing business that sell goods and services outside of the region and thereby create grow the job market. We have to stop focusing on real estate developments that only redistribute the existing pie (not just casinos, but also residential and retail developments).
In my opinion, this is really a no-brainer, too complicated to discuss in this forum.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
10/11/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.