By David Blankenhorn
Should we change our State Constitution so that politicians can spread commercial casinos across New York? The answer is “No,” and here are the top five reasons why.
• Casinos produce nothing of value. Car companies make cars. Doughnut shops make doughnuts. The only thing that happens in a casino is that people lose their money. As former governor Mario Cuomo said: “Casinos don’t produce wealth, they just redistribute it.”
• Casinos retard economic growth. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says that casino gambling will be good for New York’s economy, but he does not cite a single study or research finding to justify this assertion. And how could he? No such study exists. Independent research overwhelmingly shows that casinos do more harm than good to the economy.
• Living near a casino is bad for you. Cuomo says that “tourists” will be the main customers for New York’s casinos, but not a shred of evidence supports this claim. Most people who frequent casinos live near those casinos. And living near a casino increases your chances – and your neighbors’ and your family members’ chances – of becoming a frequent or problem gambler. Not to mention the other problems that casinos bring, such as higher crime rates, more stress on families and more personal debt. Do you love pawn shops? Casinos and pawn shops go together like peas and carrots.
• Casino taxes are regressive. Casinos do provide revenue for the state, but where does that money come from? Casino gamblers are disproportionately low-wage workers, retirees, minorities and women. Is it ethically desirable for the state to raise its revenue in this way? Do we want our government to increase inequality by transferring resources from the have-nots to the haves?
• Casinos put the state in the business of hurting people. Casinos are sponsored by government, and they exist primarily to provide revenue for the government. But studies show that from 35 to 55 percent of all casino gambling revenue comes from problem gamblers. As a public health matter, the state’s job is to try to help vulnerable people, not fleece them. Cuomo says that we “already have” gambling in New York, so why not have more of it? But it’s never a good idea to do things that will hurt people, even if we already have some people who are hurting.
Even though our Constitution is at stake, there has not been one public hearing on the casino issue. There has not been a single independent study. So far, Cuomo has confined his public statements almost entirely to repeating the PR slogans provided by the gambling industry. But it’s not too late for the citizens themselves to figure this issue out.
David Blankenhorn is president of the Institute for American Values and the author of “New York’s Promise: Why Sponsoring Casinos is a Regressive Policy Unworthy of a Great State.”