Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo first floated the idea of expanding gambling in New York state to include non-native-owned casinos, there’s been a lot of excitement, and a lot of criticism.
The Legislature passed a constitutional amendment last year that would make up to seven such casinos legal. To become law that amendment will have to be passed again this year or in 2014, and then voted on by the public. It’s a big deal (but then, it’s a big deal.)
In December of last year, the governor indicated he’d like the locations of those casinos to be determined by a competitive bidding process within the gaming industry. Cuomo said at that time that the “feeling of the local community” was important in the decision, but not that he thought they should get a vote in whether they wanted a casino.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the state Legislature is now looking to get in on that act as well, with Senate leaders Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) and Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) saying yesterday that lawmakers should have a voice in the process.
Gov. Cuomo has proposed at least three casinos be built upstate, because of the area’s “tremendous economic development needs.” Sens. Klein and Skelos, who as you see both represent downstate districts, are calling on the governor to consider locations downstate (incidentally, the Mets and the Shinnecock Indian Nation have proposed a casino near Citi Field in Queens, the New York Post reports, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says it ain’t gonna happen.)
And that brings us back upstate, to Ogdensburg, where the combination of a large parcel of land already owned by the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority and a need for economic development are combining to create what some say are ideal conditions for one of those upstate casinos.
In a story from WWNY-TV, county leaders are arguing that the location, at the foot of the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge, is far enough from the casinos in Akwesasne and Gananoque, in Ontario. A pamphlet handed to North Country Public Radio’s David Sommerstein Wednesday at a Viticulture conference he was attending (presumably the same one an unidentified St. Lawrence County official handed Gov. Cuomo during his visit here Tuesday) argues that the location is perfect, with easy access to Canada, downstate, Vermont, and other areas; and that “with an unemployment rate nearly 25 percent higher than the New York State Average, St. Lawrence County desperately needs the jobs [that] would be created by a casino.” (Read the full pamphlet as a PDF here).
Anyway, big breath. It seems that many people agree the potential economic benefits of casinos make them at least worth looking at for struggling communities (and a fairly casual search indicates that at least one study shows the benefits are often real-PDF). But what do you think of the idea of the casino in Ogdensburg? Would you want a casino in your town? Do you think expanding casino gambling beyond native-owned lands is an appropriate thing to do? I’m not much of a gambler myself, but I’m willing to bet this conversation is long, complicated, and controversial.