Chasing rainbows with legalized gambling

In Columns by Hal PetersonLeave a Comment

LI Herald September 27, 2012

Consider the following recent radio commercial: A vacuum roars in the background. Then comes’ a women’s voice. “You hear that? “It’s the sound of money and jobs being sucked right out of our state, with New Yorkers going to Connecticut and Atlantic City to gamble.”

Can’t let this happen and, on March 14, 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver announced plans to amend Article I, Section 9 of our State Constitution that currently prohibits the “sale of lottery tickets pool-selling, book-making and any other kind of gambling” to now  allow the building of seven new casinos. I feel this is a bad idea. Please let me explain why?

Reason #1 – Enough is enough! Currently 17,270 Video Lottery Terminals (electronically wired slot machines) are conveniently placed in nine racetracks (known as “racinos”) throughout the state and, five Indian-run casinos draw down additional billions.

Reason #2 – The gambling industry is currently over saturated with facilities all competing for the same disposable dollar. Atlantic City and the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Conn. (which is currently restructuring debt to avoid bankruptcy) are not, in my opinion, economic planning models I’d bet the future on.

Reason # 3 – I believe we are being sold a bill of goods on the actual benefits derived from gambling. CBS News * found that only “$14 billion of the $54 billion collected nationally actually made it to the classroom.” Why? According to former Illinois State Senator Dawn Netsch,” the money available simply replaces tax dollars legislators might spend on education, but instead spend on other projects. Author Charles T. Clotfelter stated in the same newscast “the net effect on say ‘earmarked’ lottery revenues on education expenses is close to zero.” We’re chasing rainbows.

A cautionary notice! During the first half of this year (as reported by Common Cause) nearly $4 million has been spent on lobbing and over $700,000 in campaign contributions gearing up for the passage on the constitutional amendment needed to permit full-scale gambling. Want to ‘bet’ on the outcome? A public referendum might be held in 2013.





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