Yes, gambling is going on all around us, and nobody is shocked to hear about it. That’s why Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature were right to take a big step toward the construction of seven new casinos in the state. Simply put, if you don’t build them, they won’t come.
The governor and the Legislature agreed to amend the State Constitution to allow casino gambling beyond the Native American-run operations already in place in several upstate locations. This simply is a recognition of reality, as the governor noted. “By taking these important first steps to legalize casinos, we are finally confronting the reality that while New York is already in the gaming business, we need a real plan to regulate and capitalize in the industry,” he said.
States throughout the northeast were ahead of New York in recognizing that reality. Casinos have popped up in Pennsylvania, some of them just 90 minutes by bus or car from the city. There are two Native American-run casinos in Connecticut. It seems clear that cash-starved states throughout the region, indeed, throughout the country, will continue to turn to casinos as a source of revenue and as an economic development tool. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver acknowledged this by noting that “we need the ability to keep [gambling revenue] here in New York.”
Gambling, of course, is the main attraction at casinos, but the industry also creates jobs in the hospitality, entertaining and dining sectors as well. The upstate economy in particular is desperate for these kinds of jobs—for any kind of jobs, for that matter. So it really is a no-brainer.
That said, a cautionary note seems in order: Casinos alone do not make for sound economic development policy, as the saga of Atlantic City shows. What’s more, the region may be nearing a saturation point as states rid themselves of laws and constitutional mandates that prohibit casino gambling.
For now, though, New York needs to move ahead to keep pace with other states. There really is no other choice.