By: Ilana Siyance
Last April, in desperation to raise money, state lawmakers approved up to three full-service casinos in the New York City area. It looks like Las Vegas style full casinos with blackjack and roulette tables, with their incessant ringing and flashing lights, will be creeping in to add to our hustle and bustle. New Yorkers and tourists alike may find themselves in the new center of the gambling landscape.
As reported by the NY Times, officials have touted the casinos as a new way to attract more tourists, create new jobs, and bring in more tax revenue. New York “stands to gain billions in revenue,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., a Queens Democrat and the chairman of the committee that oversees casinos. “Even if you don’t like gambling, you will benefit at some point from this.”
Granted, gambling is one of the largest markets in the country, but there might there be a reason why they are rare in large, populated cities. Certainly, there will be social and communal ramifications. A study by University of Buffalo researchers, in 2004, revealed that people who resided within 10 miles of a casino were twice as likely to have a gambling problem as people who lived farther. Further, while casinos do create new jobs- they are mostly low-end jobs. Last year, the median annual pay for a gambling service worker was $29,120, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Also, the promised economic boosts are by no means guaranteed, and often prove to be overstated. The true long-term economic impact on a local community has been a matter of extensive debate across the country. The impact on existing businesses, crime and of gambling addictions must also be assessed, though they are difficult to measure. “You will see projections from casino operators that need to be taken with a grain of salt,” said Enrique Zuniga, who served on the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, when a new Wynn Resorts casino was approved and opened in the Boston area.
Mr. Zuniga conceded that the potential for some positive effects is tangible. “The important thing is, are the city and the state positioned to benefit regardless?” he noted. The Encore Boston Harbor, opened in June 2019, was one of the first Las Vegas-style resort casinos in the center of a major urban area. The casino, which cost roughly $2.6 billion to develop, was faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and fell far short of revenue targets, as did most entertainment venues during the time.
Lucy Dadayan, a senior research associate with the Urban Institute, a research organization, cautioned that the benefits of casinos are short-lived. “When there’s a new casino opening around the corner, people go and try it for the novelty,” Ms. Dadayan said. “After some time, as short as one year, it wears off.” At the Harrah’s casino in New Orleans, for example, gambling revenue fell virtually every year since 2008, which was their peak.
As per the Times, NYS’s gambling commission has until October to create a committee that will manage the application process and sift through suggested locations. The two to three selected sites are slated to be announced in several months.