Afternoon read: It’s a gamble…

Detail from a brochure distributed by the St. Lawrence County Casino Task Force, containing a preliminary proposal for a casino in Ogdensburg.

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.

23 Comments on “Afternoon read: It’s a gamble…”

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  1. Jim Bullard says:

    I have a hard time seeing gambling as “economic development”. When I think of economic development I tend to think of things that produce goods and services, not just transferring money from one group of people to another. We already have lots of opportunity for that between the existing casinos, the LOTTO and let’s not forget the financial markets. Heck, if your idea of economic development is giving someone else your money, send it to me.

  2. Mervel says:

    It’s entertainment. No different from going to a play or watching nascar or whatever, people spend money on entertainment; and that is fine.

    What is not fine is the negative externals that come from something which has a serious danger for some people of addiction. It it can be very destructive to families and that costs is not measured in the benefits always touted for casino’s

  3. The Original Larry says:

    Go to NJ and see what casino gambling has done for Atlantic City’s “economic development”. When first introduced casino gambling was touted as the answer to state education funding as well. All these years later, NJ’s school taxes are amongst the highest in the country and Atlantic City is still a blighted city with almost 23% unemployment. Nothing good ever comes from a casino, unless of course, you own one. Another brilliant Cuomo idea.

  4. mervel says:

    A better comparison to the North Country is probably Mississippi as far as rural economic development and poverty. They have actually done Ok with casino’s improving some poverty there. Of course as point out I don’t think they are the way to go, the cause a lot of damage.

  5. mervel says:

    But then again what business is acceptable to us? We sit here with 10% unemployment and a major a poverty problem and we have a knee jerk reaction to every single business that shows an interest in coming here, fracking hell no, casino hell no, so I guess we are happy with our welfare rolls?

  6. tootightmike says:

    Raise your hands; Who remembers when they told us that the lottery would be just the ticket to pay for our schools?

  7. The Original Larry says:

    Casino gambling is a chump’s game. The “players” are duped into thinking it’s “entertainment” like going to a play or a ball game, but it’s not. Nobody ever went broke going to Broadway shows. Local employment isn’t helped much; Atlantic City has 23% unemployment and even Las Vegas is over 10%. The profits of this dirty business remain in the hands of the casino owners, period. The unsavory (and largely illegal) activities that come along with gambling are another matter all together. It isn’t that anyone is happy with welfare rolls or unemployment but this idea is a proven loser. People (like Cuomo) who come up with one bad idea after another shouldn’t criticize those who oppose the insanity.

  8. tootightmike says:

    The St Lawrence County area is already served by a casino isn’t it? In fact that casino is operated by, and supposedly serves, a community in need, So is it working? Is Akwesasne rolling in dough? Have the community’s needs been fulfilled by the big bucks coming across the border, or this just another way to tax the stupid.

  9. Pete Klein says:

    If no one else want a casino, I’ll vote for one in Indian Lake.

  10. mervel says:

    Well I think those are valid points.

    Frankly the Rez is doing well economically compared to pre-casino days. However, I think that is an argument against a casino in Ogdensburg. You can gamble at a nice casino 55 miles up the road in Hull (or whatever its called now) you can gamble on the US side in Hogensburg about 35 miles away. So I would doubt a casino could really get business beyond local business which indeed is not good.

    I am not sold on them I have seen them work and have seen them fail.

    But what do we want? It does seem that no one supports ANY economic development, I remember when a beef plant was trying to come in it was a big debate, what is NOT a big debate for a business or industry to open up here? I guess a vegan, craftsman who makes artistic chairs?

  11. Ken Hall says:

    When I was stationed at McClellan AFB back in 1968 all new arrivals were required to attend a mandatory briefing concerning the dangers associated with availing oneself of the entertainment and thrills offered by the so called “gaming” industry in Reno and Tahoe. As I recall the briefing made an impression upon me especially the incidental narratives about loss of careers, homes, automobiles, spouses, wealth, freedom and possibly life. A friend of mine was working for Ma Bell in Reno had been out to dinner and was walking back to his motel when suddenly it was lights out for him. He was lucky the folks that mugged and beat him were unsuccessful in doing him in completely and a passerby called the police; he woke up in a hospital about a week later with no memory of the attack.

    His was an extreme case but not unusual and I had a number of military coworkers who would leave a month or two of pay whenever they ventured into the “gaming” parlors. Here in the North Country I know a number of folks who routinely frequent the local Reservation “gaming” hunts and deposit copious quantities of of their income to the benefit of the casinos.

    I think of the “gaming industry” as the second industry of “magical” thinking, the first of course is religion, as the two are tightly bound up with superstition and wishing and hoping; unfortunately the downtrodden, poorly educated and desperate are most susceptible to their siren calls. The greatest objection I have, and I would hope any compassionate rational human would as well, is that the people most willing to engage in contributing to the “gaming industry’s” largess are the very folks who can ill afford to do so and are conned into doing so by the marketing ploys which proclaim the ease with which great gain can be obtained for a minor investment. What the “gaming industry” actually is is another diabolical method with which the poor transfer their miniscule wealth to the 1% voluntarily thus perpetuating their decline and self destruction.

    Hell of a deal for the 1% and for the middle class who think that there is no down side to the tax offset the States are able to provide them as a result of their cut from the “gaming industry’s” “justified” profits.

  12. Ken Hall says:

    “gaming” haunts; not hunts

  13. Rancid Crabtree says:

    I’m in total agreement with those against the idea on another casino. There are lots of alternatives for St Lawrence Co besides this boondoggle. Agriculture, timber and mining get almost no support from the local and state gov’ts. Any heavy industry is driven away, light industry is welcomed but limited by outrageous costs.

    There have to be better ideas out there. Is legalizing prostitution and drugs next? We seem to be headed 180 degrees away from common sense solutions.

  14. mervel says:

    I mean we already took a violent sexual predator prison facility for sex offenders considered too dangerous to ever actually let loose.

  15. TomL says:

    Politics is the ‘art of the possible’. It is deplorable that some SLC leaders are wasted political capitol on two things that will never be built – a ‘rooftop’ interstate or a casino in SLC.

    A hundred communities from the Catskills to Chautauqua are going to be competing for the three upstate casinos (that is, if they remain limited to upstate, else add NYC area to). There is a casino 35 mile from Ogdensburg. A casino with a state compact that prevents building another casino anywhere within something like 100 miles of it. A casino on Mohawk Territory…the people of Akwesasne are politically organized and (rightfully) militant about their rights. Imagine the ruckus if the people of Akwesasne believe there is a possibility of a competing casino so close to theirs, and in violation of past agreements. Neither the Governor, nor any other NYS politician will want to get caught up in that controversy- it’s a lose-lose. It will be expedient to select any of the many other contenders.

    There are so many things that could improve the economic conditions of our area. Agriculture is looking up, but we need better ways of processing, marketing, and transporting meat, milk, organic produce and other products. Is there a way to get the mines in Balmat back in service? Wood products industry needs attention. Tourism – fishing, snowsports etc. The Regional Development Authority, thankfully, seems to be focusing on these opportunities, and with some success in terms of investment from NYS.

    Our SLC county and local government legislators, too, need to fight for improving the economic opportunities that really exist. Instead, we keep hearing about the amazing prosperity that we will enjoy when NASCAR comes to Brasher, nuke plants are built in Massena, the Interstate is built across the North Country, and another casino is built in St. Lawrence County. In the case of the interstate and casino, money that SLC doesn’t have (and what little political capital we do have) will be spent in lobbying for these impossible dreams.

  16. mervel says:

    Oh no TOML that is crazy, the government breaking past agreements with the Mohawks, no that would never happen.

  17. mervel says:

    We had one shot to get the rooftop interstate, the Federal Highway Bill which is passed once every ten years. The interstate did not make the cut, not in the plan, thus it is dead unless we can get it in next go around. Coumo put the nail in the coffin this last week, he was pretty clear, not going to happen.

  18. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Tom, I think you got to the heart of the matter, but- in a lot of cases investment from the State or Feds isn’t required. All thats required is gov’t getting out of the way, easing rules that never made sense, altering some policies and ending interference. Gov’ Cuomo, Saint Andrew, it currently talking about easing some restrictions on dairies so that NY can cash in on the Greek Yogurt market. It’s the first sensible thing I’ve heard him say. Essentially it means raising the number of animals you can have before you become a CAFO and have to get into multi-million dollar containment facilities. That requires no input from the State, just tweak to current law.

    Mining in SLC is hurt by the high costs of transport, well, an taxes too but I’ll leave that be. When the Balmat mines was last opened CSX wouldn’t provide the rolling stock to transport the product. The State could have stepped in and negotiated some deal that probably wouldn’t have cost much if anything to the taxpayer. CSX pays taxes I’m sure, a little massaging in that area could have resulted in secure jobs for a lot of people. And I understand from a relative that Bartons Mines in North River is looking at rail for their waste rock. This is another area the State could help in at no or little cost.

    There are possibilities besides un-needed highways and casinos we already agreed not to build. But it takes a little common sense and thought to see them.

  19. The Original Larry says:

    New York is such an unfriendly place for business that it’s a wonder any are operating here at all. Whoever got that chip plant in Malta should probably win a Nobel Prize.

  20. mervel says:

    Well it’s weird. Because yes in general its not friendly toward your average business, however NYC is an international business hub, it is in fact the center of modern capitalism in many respects.

    We need to regulatory and tax regimes, one of the City and one for the rest of New York. The city is competing with Tokyo, Bejing, London, Paris and Munich etc as a capital of modern business. Upstate we are competing with Texas and Pennsylvania and Georgia to attract businesses who are looking for less expensive places to make things in the US in a lower income rural environment. We have nothing in common with world banking and finance centers. We have a lot in common with other low wage rural states.

  21. Rancid Crabtree says:

    I’d go further than that Mervel. I think NYC, LI and the lower 9 counties need to be their own state. I’d even lump everything up to Albany into that if need be. The greater NYC area controls the state and has no shared interest in northern, central and western NY. I would much prefer to be living in a poor state that was working to improve it’s position than to live in a poor area of a state where there is no consideration given to improving the poor areas. We have an urban ruling class running things with no consideration given for the rural condition, other than ensuring the urban class has plenty of land for their entertainment. And we aren’t alone. This urban/rural divide is pronounced across the nation and in Canada too. I see it as an huge issue.

  22. Bob S says:

    Bring it on and tax it hard. It’s the only way to get the poor to pay their “fair share”.

  23. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Unbelievably St Andrew may have actually done something good! News is the State is funding a “Food Hub” in Canton. First I’ve heard of it but it sounds like a distribution network for truck crops, ie- your fruits and vegetables grown locally. In days gone by truck crops were a staple of small diversified farms, many that would be close in resemblance to our modern Amish farms. This is a chance for North Country farmers and large scale gardeners to have a local market for crops beyond the farmstand or local farmers market day. I hope it succeeds.

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