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Op-Ed | Full-scale gaming should come to Queens

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When people think of casinos, they often only think of gaming. But, in the nearly ten years since Resorts World New York City has been open, our members have come to see it as so much more. They’ve gone there for concerts, to watch sporting events, and for comedy shows. They’ve sat down for a nice meal at the RW Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. In fact, the Queens Chamber has hosted numerous events on-site. And they’re not the only ones. Queens residents and visitors to the borough have come to view Resorts World as a destination for entertainment and good food.

When the world stopped due to the pandemic, much of life in The World’s Borough stopped as well. Tourism was curtailed and foot traffic took a huge dip. With fewer people heading to Resorts World, neighboring small businesses were also hit hard. We need an influx of people to the borough to help these organizations begin to erase the huge losses they have suffered over the last two years.

Our members are aware of Resorts World’s push to be allowed to compete in the bidding process for table game licenses and they fully support the move. If Resorts World were able to expand its offerings as an entertainment destination, people would flock there to take advantage of the new options. This would create potentially thousands of needed good-paying union jobs in the retail, leisure, and service sectors. And while they were there, staying in the new hotel, they would also be infusing cash into other businesses in the area, many of which are minority and women-owned enterprises. This would create even more jobs and economic activity indirectly. These businesses have perhaps felt the loss of the pandemic more acutely than others, as their employees and customers have been adversely impacted by Covid-19.

New York should be exploring any and all options that would bring people back to the City. We’ve seen the good neighbor that Resorts World has been to the Chamber and its members. We know its commitment to hiring Queens residents and helping local entrepreneurs. We know the work it’s done with the community and local nonprofits – helping them achieve fundraising goals, amplifying their work, and connecting them with volunteers and supporters. We’ve seen its commitment to providing its customers access to locally produced goods. The Chamber believes adding table games to the facility would do nothing but strengthen these ties between Resorts World and the Queens community. Its success would spell success for all of us.

Many of our members were forced to make the hard decision during the pandemic to lay off employees. And they weren’t the only ones – over a third of Queens residents say they or someone in their household lost their job since the pandemic started. Many people who are now unemployed are people of color.

As a representative of over 1,300 organizations in Queens, we support awarding Resorts World a full-scale casino license because the move would also create thousands of union jobs. As we said, Resorts World is committed to hiring minority employees who live in Queens. This move could quickly create options for employment and get these people back to work in the borough where they live. These jobs would be good-paying, so after months of uncertainty, they could finally breathe a little easier without wondering where their next paycheck was coming from. Plus, they would get high-quality healthcare at no cost to them, in addition to defined pension plans.

New York’s path to recovery will be long. By supporting options that get people back to work and bring people back to the most diverse community in the country, New York can help the borough, the local business community and the entire region as they strive to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Thomas Grech is president & CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. The Queens Chamber of Commerce has served the Queens business community in New York City since 1911. It’s committed to “fostering economic growth and prosperity in the most diverse community in the country by promoting the interests of business through advocacy, networking, and education.”

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