Public perception of casinos among upstate New Yorkers continues to evolve. While new gaming halls will be built, people have become more aware of the long-term positives and negatives they'll bring to surrounding areas.
A Time Warner Cable News/Siena College Poll out Monday finds a majority of those polled favor building a Capitol Region casino.
Don Levy is Director of the Siena College Research Institute. "We took a look at the three regions where it looks like casinos are going to be located, the Capital Region being one. And when we asked people across all of those three regions 'do you support or oppose a casino development in the Capital Region, upstate New Yorkers were split 44 percent in favor, 40 percent opposed. When you break that down just to residents of the Capital Region, support was a little bit stronger about casino development here in the Capital Region, 49 percent in favor, 40 opposed. Not quite a clear majority, a plurality. When we look beneath that a little bit we find, as we have in other previous surveys, that what gets people excited about casino development is the possibility of job creation, number one, and secondly, tax revenue that's really gonna help out with local government."
Cara Benson with anti-casino group Save East Greenbush believes developers scaling down what were presented as rather "grand plans" for new gaming halls may be helping shift public opinion. One East Greenbush town board member did an about-face recently: Mary Ann Matters accused developers of employing "bait and switch" tactics. Cara Benson: "From what she says its based upon not having good communication with developers at this point and watching how the project has shifted and changed and been downscaled without her knowledge of it. She only found out through reading the executive summary. This is certainly something we've said from the get-go, that the developers are making promises that they're not going to keep."
Benson says developers continue fooling officials and communities, presenting unsustainable ideas. "The initial proposal from the developers was that this is going to be a world-class destination resort. Now we all know no one is flying into East Greenbush or Rensselaer County to go gambling. This is not a resort area. They're continuing to downscale their project because they know that what they're gonna build can't be supported."
Morgan Hook, spokesperson for Capital View Casino & Resort, commented via email. "At every step of the process, we have engaged with every member of the town board and provided them with a full and detailed account of what our proposal is and will be. While we have made some adjustments to our proposal to accommodate and protect local business interests, this is still a $300 million project that will generate millions in revenue for the town, county and school district and create thousands of jobs."
Hook emphasizes his group believes it offers the strongest among all Capital Region casino proposals and will meet with any public official who has questions. Local support has been seen as key for casino companies seeking licenses from the state.
Casino research expert and author Robert Goodman, who was scheduled to speak at an anti-casino forum Tuesday night in East Greenbush, warns there is a cost to any community that embraces casino culture. "When you put a casino in, especially in a local community, what you do is you get a lot more people who either gambled very little or didn't gamble at all, now gambling much more. Every study has shown once you do that you increase the number of problem gamblers."
Goodman says problem gamblers become community problems, chasing after bets, running out of money, writing bad checks, embezzling and committing other forms of fraud. "And then you also pick up the cost of prosecuting these people in the criminal justice system. We've looked at costs in different parts of the country. They range from $10,000 to $13,000 dollars per problem gambler per year."
Offsetting that line of thinking, those who participated in the Time Warner/Siena poll said that local job creation and tax revenue for local governments would be the biggest benefits reaped from installation of a casino.
The NYS Gaming Facility Location Board will post online redacted applications from the 17 applicants for commercial casinos on July 30. They will be viewable at www.gaming.ny.gov/gaming/casinos.php