Editorial: Give NYC a slice of the gambling pie
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing for a constitutional amendment to "legalize" casino gambling by approving up to seven non-Indian casino licenses. His plan has passed the legislature once and must pass it again before voters get to weigh in on a ballot referendum this year or next.
But there's a problem. Cuomo has mainly touted his plan as a driver for upstate development. Meanwhile, the Northeastern share of the gambling pie is already maxed out -- from Atlantic City to Connecticut and beyond.
Revenue can only grow with dollars from more visitors who live outside our region. In other words, it can only happen with casinos in or near New York City, which last year hosted 52 million visitors.
So it's better to consider a new proposition. How do we foster gaming so that it creates jobs, spurs economic growth, boosts tax revenue and reaps more dollars from tourists in a way that's uncompromised by corruption? The answer is: carefully, quickly and statewide.
Gambling never brings in as much development as its boosters predict. But in a state with a lottery, "racinos," horse tracks, Indian casinos, off-track betting and online wagering, there is still a place in the Empire State for full casinos owned by non-Indians.
Cuomo's plan is too confident about the development gaming might bring upstate, and it fails to make the most of the city's fast-growing waves of visitors -- including tourists, international high rollers and business people here for a day or two.
Albany's chances of approving a final casino bill are even money. But Cuomo's approach may be hurting the odds. Maybe the bill in the legislature can survive disapproval from gambling opponents. But it can't survive disapproval from gambling backers. A plan that puts no full casinos downstate could anger gamblers in the city and its suburbs, where most of the state's voters live. Why not let major casino corporations create joint bids for downstate and upstate locations? Cuomo has to play his cards wisely to make both the state and city big winners.