Are you aware that New York City has launched its first legalized mega-casino gambling palace right beside Aqueduct Racetrack? Not only does it provide a day of gambling excitement previously unavailable around here, but in this ongoing recession and with the state strapped for cash, the casino will create over 1,000 permanent jobs and provide an impressive $469 million in tax revenue__with $350 million of that earmarked to support education! Only a cynic could argue with that, right?
Ok, where do I start? When the NY Lottery was first introduced, 100% of the profits were promised to go directly to educating our youth. And look at the bonanza we’ve reaped, as our school system shines! Oh, right–it’s still pretty horrible. How could that be? Partly because all that lottery money earmarked for education was soon shifted by politicians to the state’s “general fund.”
If it’s true that those who don’t remember history are condemned to repeat it, we’re in for a rough ride. Still, Governor Andrew Cuomo is a strong supporter of state run casinos, to fill our coffers and compete with the expanding number of gambling venues in neighboring states. He has also raised the possibility of legalizing table games (blackjack, etc) and “full service” Las Vegas style casinos here.
“I’m not averse to this,” says New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, “but it certainly should not be in the middle of the inner city.”
While Rockaway Boulevard in Queens may not be “the middle of the inner city”, it is most definitely a depressed area. The overwhelming majority of the crowd appeared poor or working class, pouring their money down the slot machines. If you had any doubt gambling provides a tax on the poor, pay a visit here and all doubts will be erased.
But hey, it’s a free country, and if people want to gamble, it’s their business, right? I visited the new “Times Square” (misnamed by Malaysian-based owners Genting Berhad) casino this weekend and have to admit I had fun. The main gaming floor had thousands of slot machines__excuse me, “video lottery terminals”__to choose from. The center of the casino featured a state of the art, stadium-sized television screen encircled by a sparkling bar where you could watch football while gambling on poker machines installed on the countertop.
An impressive Food Court offered something for all tastes, from Popeye’s Chicken to the Stage Deli to Wolfgang Puck, all at reasonable prices. Another floor, dubbed “Fifth Avenue” will soon be opened and house two fine-dining establishments, including a steakhouse and wine bar.
“The opening of Genting’s Resort World New York Casino will benefit all of the stakeholders at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga,” promises Charles Haywood, president of the New York Racing Association. Right, but will it truly benefit us?
Stop Predatory Gambling and other such groups strongly oppose this casino as they do all state-sponsored gambling. The say addictions are formed, families destroyed and wealth transferred away from lower and moderate income families.
Party poopers! Genting is planning to follow up the success of its first foray into the U.S. gaming market here with plans to take their lavish casinos into Florida.While state law currently forbids casinos from expanding beyond those operated by the Seminole Indian tribe, Genting is exerting pressure on Florida lawmakers to change these laws ASAP.
While most legislators are playing ball, eager to grab their piece of the pie, some are dubious about what will truly occur.
“If this is such a golden apple for us to latch onto, why isn’t Nevada leading the nation in economic health?” asks State Representative Dennis Baxley.
Yeah yeah. Baxley seems like the type of guy who would wag a finger of warning at those on their first dreamy heroin high. What a downer! Meanwhile, attendees I saw merrily playing the slots this weekend weren’t thinking such deep thoughts, grinning from ear to ear as they tossed their money down the gleaming cash pits.
I tried to keep up my smile as well. When the government resorts to bread and circuses to distract the angry citizenry, you know the end is nigh. So hey, might as well have some fun.
As the man who jumped off the Empire State Building said to his buddies as he passed the 30th floor, so far so good!