Tag Archives: casino

Why the casino process is a blow to democracy

When I was younger, my family took a vacation to the Caribbean, and while we were there we had the opportunity to take a free trip to a special beach to go snorkeling; but there was a catch. We had to sit through a presentation to buy a time share in their property. While this exchange is not remarkable in itself (I do, after all, constantly trade many inconveniences for “free” things), the tactics used during the visit were well designed to convince the highest number of people to sign up.

The presentation started with a personal pitch from one of their salespersons touting all the great benefits and how the time share wouldn’t cost us anything, since if we didn’t use it, it could be rented to another person. Of course, after hearing all the benefits of the time share, we are told that the offer is only available while we are at the table, and we should jump at the opportunity before someone else does. This type of time pressure is not unique to this particular operation, as we have all seen commercials with phrases such as, ” Act now before it’s too late!” or “This offer is only available for the next hour” or in today’s online shopping marketplace, the limited quantity sales on Amazon’s daily deals.

Most recently, we see these same tactics as developers try to sell casinos in upstate NY.

The applications are due June 30th, and the Daily Gazette summarized the Capital Region proposals in Sunday’s edition. Any child studying for Common Core would quickly realize that every casino proposal is projected to bring in the same amount of money: $5.7 million to the city and county. Why would casino proposals ranging in size, location, and scope bring in the same amount of tax revenue?

It’s because the numbers are baseless.

The estimated tax revenue comes from the state gaming board’s presentation on the impact of casinos. This presentation cites as its source the NY State Division of the Budget. Yet, when I contacted the NY State Division of the Budget to determine how this number was determined, I received the following response:

Do you mean this presentation, which is on the Gaming Commission’s website?

There is no report published by the Division of Budget with the name you asked about.

When pressed further, the NY Division of Budget referred me to their press release, and have since stopped responding to requests for the basis of these numbers.

The Gaming Commission presentation is citing the numbers that the Division of Budget put forth in this press release, available on our website.

In other words, don’t put much weight behind these numbers.

The whole casino process is another example of aggressive sales tactics. Cities are being asked to support the casino based on information that is without basis to the site or scale of the casino. A good process would use time and research to come to an informed decision instead of a rushed decision based on a sales pitch.

I’m sure the company selling time shares found many takers that day, but an aggressive sales pitch is not the way to run the government. It’s a disservice to the citizens of the state and region and blow to democratic governance.

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A casino opponent’s lament

I am opposed to the Rush Street Gaming Casino being proposed at the former ALCO site in Schenectady, and following the city council meeting on Monday in which they voted 5-2 in favor of the casino proposal I found myself deeply agitated by the outcome…an outcome that was predetermined.

But why?

I know that casinos are not the economic panacea the supports claim them to be, and the upstate casinos are no exception. And yet at the same time, the negative effects espoused by the opposition are also overblown with most of the effects being felt locally by residential areas. My home is far enough away from the casino to significantly minimize any negative effects, but still I found myself upset.

Part of my opposition may be due to the council’s decision to completely ignore public input, but Ms. Perazzo is correct – a public hearing would not change the outcome and are often a nuisance more than an effective means of soliciting public input. The council meeting in which the vote took place is a prime example. A quick look around the room demonstrates that the typical Schenectady resident was not represented.

The audience at the council meeting about the casino
Is this audience only 60% white?

But how the council should solicit public input is a topic for another post, and I won’t dwell on it here except to say I don’t usually get upset with the ineffectiveness of these hearings for other matters.

So why did I get so upset about the casino? I have gambled before and do not have a moral opposition to it, but I do believe society has a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable citizens.

What bothered me most was the loss of such a great site to improve the quality of life for residents and build upon a plan that people would want to live near and be a part of. The plan has not always been static, but I was really excited to see the development of a family friendly waterfront that was integrated into the surrounding neighborhoods and downtown. This plan had a great potential to attract residents to live downtown and continue the economic development that has slowly been taking place in Schenectady over the past decade. I fear that most people do not want to live near a casino and downtown development will be stymied.

ALCO brownfield site, June 2014
I hope this ALCO site will be great

It’s like watching a recovering alcoholic start drinking again. The loss of so much potential is heartbreaking. This regret is what made me so disappointed at the vote on Monday.

If Schenectady is chosen for the casino, I’m sure that in its first several years we will hear a lot of positive press. We may even receive that promised tax break. But long term, the benefits are questionable, the lives damaged difficult to quantify, and the lost potential of the ALCO site the most regrettable of all.