Posted by: David Giacalone | September 11, 2014

Rush Street takes aim at adolescents

noslots

According to a report issued September 9th by a major hospitality and casino worker union, Rush Street Gaming is investing millions of dollars with the aim of becoming the industry leader in “building a bridge” between children playing casino-like games on social media and smartphones and their going to brick-n-mortar casinos to do real gaming once they are old enough.  Knowing that the earlier you begin to gamble, the more likely you are to gamble often and obsessively, Schenectady’s proposed casino operator is sowing the seeds digitally to grow the next generation of problem gamblers.

bettingonkidsonline-cover Go to the website No Slots for Tots, which is sponsored by the Unite HERE, to see their informative, easy-to-read, and well-illustrated, 12- page report, “Betting on Kids Online: How One US Casino Company Hopes to ‘Bridge the Space’ Between Real and Virtual Casinos While Making Apps Available to Children via Social Networks and Smartphones.”  The introduction states:

[O]ne US casino company [Rush Street Gaming] has quietly pursued an Internet strategy that has sidestepped gambling regulators while also explicitly allowing players as young as 13″ to play their virtual games.

Who is Unite HERE? In their words, “UNITE HERE is the hospitality workers union representing workers in the gaming industry in North America. UNITE HERE Gaming Research provides analysis of the gaming industry from the perspective of those who work in it.”

Note: The Albany Times Union reported last night that “A large casino workers union [Unite HERE] has written to the state Gaming Commission complaining about Rush Street Gaming, the company trying to obtain licenses to run gambling houses in Schenectady and Newburgh. . . . The letter asserts that workers at casinos run by the Chicago-based firm have reported ‘illegal harassment by casino managers including threats, surveillance and other intimidation’.” TU reporter Jim Odato explains further and gives a little background on Rush Street and unions.

If Rush Street Gaming is rushing to create the next generation of casino gamblers, can there be any doubt that they will make a full-court (full-rink?) press to lure Union College undergraduates across the street to the old ALCO site?  For more on the increased vulnerability of young gamblers, see our posting “what will the casino mean for Union College students” and the materials referenced there.

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 9, 2014

Primary Day: Teachout Opposes Casinos

See our postings:

  1. Teachout sees corruption behind Cuomo casino stance (Sept. 2, 2014)
  2. Teachout says no to casinos (August 15, 2014)

ZT-TW flyermast  This primary is important. Vote. Enough said.

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 2, 2014

Teachout sees donations behind Cuomo’s casino stance

MoneyBag neg In a guest column at The Huffington Post today, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout describes “The Corruption Beneath Cuomo’s Casino Push” (The Blog, February 2, 2014.) After listing some of the damage caused and promises broken by casinos, Zephyr asks “So why did New York pass the amendment anyway?” and explains:

Because Governor Cuomo tilted the vote in favor of the gambling industry. His aides helped rewrite language on the ballot to portray the amendment as a huge boon to the state, suggesting it could only lead to benefits, such as job creation, greater school financing, and lower taxes. Newspaper editorial boards and public interest groups across the state cried foul, noting their actions would massively mislead voters — but the Cuomo administration kept the pro-casino wording on the ballot anyway.

 NoloSharkS There’s good reason to think Governor Cuomo had his own interests in mind. Since 2005, he has directly collected over $1 million from gambling and horse racing companies – more than any other elected official or candidate in the state.

As Governor, Ms. Teachout says she will break the tie between political donations and politics, between casino donations and public policy.

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 31, 2014

the unseemly silence from Union College

TooTempting-headline31Aug2014 It’s been almost three months since the Schenectady Daily Gazette ran Carol Hyde’s Letter to the Editor “Union, SCCC will be affected by casino” and we posted “what will the casino mean for Union College students?” (June 7, 2014).  As you might have seen in the Opinion piece published in today’s Sunday Gazette, “Too tempting?: Casino could create young gamblers, but college remains silent“, there still has been no comment on the casino from the Union College President or Administration.  (Sunday Gazette, by David Giacalone, August 31, 2014, D1, subscription req’d )

Naturally, we will post any response from the Union College administration or community at this website.

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 21, 2014

protocol for Location Board’s public comment events

The NYS Gaming Facility Location Board announced the Details and Protocol for Public Comment Events today.  The email message with the Announcement, from Communications Director Lee Park , is copied in below.  As we posted recently, the “Public Comment Event” — public hearing — for selecting the Capital Region casino will be on Sept. 22, from 8 AM to 8PM, at the Holiday Inn Turf , 205 Wolf Road. Attendance at the Event is on a first-come-first-seated basis, but you will be able to watch it streamed and archived at the Gaming Commission website (www.gaming.ny.gov). Information on sending in your written comments is also given below.

red check Reserved Time Slots.  Note that you may request a 5-minute time slot for making a presentation to the Board at the September 9th event, and there will be five slots reserved per hour, with the remaining slots filled on a first-come basis by signing up the day of the event.  As you can see from the directions, you should reserve a slot as soon as possible, as people will be commenting on all four Capital Region applicants and there are only a total of 60 reserved slots:

Comment Segment Reservations:  Five time slots per hour will be held for speaking time reservations.  To reserve a segment for a public comment event, members of the public should email their name, organization (if applicable) and desired time request to the following email addresses, respective to each location:

September 22, Capital Region Event:                          CapitalRegion@gaming.ny.gov

Organizations or groups are asked to designate a representative to make one 5-minute presentation, with other members speaking as time permits.  Because of limited seating, those not wishing to speak are urged to watch the streamed version online.

update: As representative of Stop the Schenectady Casino, I (David Giacalone) have been given the 10:00 to 10:05 A.M. time slot at the Capital Region public comment event. I hope there will be other Opponents more persuasive than I at the Event.

red check Written Comments. The Board will accept, and seems to prefer, written comments by email [info@gaming.ny.gov], or you may submit them at the Public Comment Event or within 7 days after the event:

Written Submissions: In addition to oral statements, the Board will accept written submissions at the event and up to seven (7) days following the event.  Statements received beyond seven (7) days will not be included in the formal record. 

All submissions should clearly identify the submitter’s name, and affiliation, if any.

Click for a one-page Opposition handout outlining our reasons for opposing the Schenectady Casino.

The full announcement from the Board follows:

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 20, 2014

it’s time to write to the Location Board

- click for a one-page handout with the information below -

[updated, September 8, 2014]

It is not too late to let the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board know that you are opposed to having the proposed casino in Schenectady. We suggest writing before the Public Hearing on September 22, 2014, but the deadline to be part of the public record is September 29, 2914. The Director of Communications for the Gaming Commission assured us that all comments are preserved for consideration by the Board, and told us “The best way to submit comment on a proposal is to email info@gaming.ny.gov.”

 

In writing, make reference to the application for a casino-operating license in Schenectady by Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor. Sending the message by email will provide the Board with a digital copy of your Comment, making it easier to archive. If you wish to write on paper, send your letter to: New York State Gaming Commission, Gaming Facility Location Board, PO Box 7500, Schenectady, NY 12301-7500.

images-5 Please use your own words to tell the Board your main reasons for opposing the Schenectady casino. We believe that the promised benefits claimed for the casino are uncertain and may be of short duration, and they are clearly outweighed by many negative factors that are likely to occur. Moreover, basing fiscal policy on casino revenues is regressive and inappropriate. In addition, Schenectady is not desperate for development as the Applicant suggests. For years, our leaders have taken credit for revitalization, with many new jobs and businesses. Moreover, the Galesi Group says it will develop Mohawk Harbor, and remediate the brownfields, with our without a casino — an investment of $200 million, the biggest in the City’s history.

 Here are some other reasons that members of Stop the Schenectady Casino have for our opposition:

  • Injury to local businesses due to the casino taking a large portion of dollars spent on leisure in the area, with most visitors coming from less than 50 miles, causing business bankruptcies, staff reductions, and closings. The many amenities at the casino will keep day-trippers on the casino lot.
  • An increase in crime, such as drug sales, prostitution, purse-snatching, DUI, car theft and break-ins, especially near the casino, plus domestic violence; and embezzlement, fraud and financial crimes;
  • An increase in the prevalence of problem gambling, and gambling by the elderly and the very poor, bringing much stress and injury to families as well as the entire community, and its public assistance services and expenses.
  • A serious threat to the legally-protected residential nature of Schenectady’s “gem,” the Stockade Historic District, which is a few blocks away, and will suffer more crime and traffic.
  • The proximity to the Union College campus, which even has a large undergraduate residence one block away, although 18-year-olds are allowed to gamble in this State, and we know that younger gamblers are more vulnerable to becoming problem gamblers, especially if they binge drink.

 

Capital Region Public Hearing on September 22: Public presentations to the Location Board regarding each of the four Capital Region applicants (described in the Press Release as “day-long public comment events”) will take place on September 22, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Albany Holiday Inn Turf, 205 Wolf Road, in Colonie. Our representative is scheduled for 10:00 – 10:05 A.M. Each public comment event will be open to the public, web-cast on the Commission’s site [www.gaming.ny.gov] and recorded for the Board’s use in its evaluation of applicants.”  See the Commission’s  Protocol for Public Comment Events.

 

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 15, 2014

Teachout says No to casinos

zephheader Zephyr Teachout, Governor Cuomo’s main opponent in the September 9th Democratic primary, spoke with Schenectady Gazette editors and reporters on Thursday (August 14, 2014), and had some very welcome words about casinos. See Education, business on Teachout’s mind“, (August 15, 2014, Daily Gazette, August 15, 2014).

As Haley Vicarro reports in today’s Gazette:

Teachout said she would also pursue new ways to spur economic development upstate — but betting on casinos is not the answer.

“With casinos, there is this initial promise that they will provide jobs,” she said. “But as we know, there might be saturation, and casinos are failing in Atlantic City. I don’t think casinos are the right direction for economic development.”

Teachout said she believes the Galesi Group’s plan to revitalize the former Alco site off Erie Boulevard is development that “makes sense.” Add in a casino, though, and it creates trouble.

“It’s my understanding Galesi was looking to make that investment before the casino,” she said. “Casinos are a gamble themselves. It’s riskier to bring in a casino. It’s not a priority for my campaign to pursue casinos.”

Those might be Teachout’s first public words on casinos, and they are most encouraging. As I asked in a Comment at the Gazette webpage: Why is it that Zephyr Teachout has figured out the casino scam, but our local politicians are still playing Hear-No-See-No-Speak-No Evil?

If the Teachout-Wu campaign addresses the casino issue in more detail, we will cover it here.  Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, weighed in at his weblog last month, with the posting “Cuomo’s bad casino bet fueled by campaign donations” (July 16, 2014). update: see the Newsday piece, “After snubs, Cuomo team rakes in big donations from gambling, developers and two unions” (Spin Cycle column, by Yancey Roy, Aug. 29, 2014).

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 8, 2014

Location Board schedules presentations and hearings

Yesterday, August 7, the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board announced its schedule for final applicant presentations to the Board and for its public hearings.  Click for the Press Release. The “public comment event” for the Capital Region applications is scheduled for September 22, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Albany Holiday Inn Turf, 205 Wolf Road, in Colonie (see below for more information).

  • Presentations: The four remaining Applicants*, from Schenectady, East Greenbush, Rensselaer, and Howe’s Cave, will make their final presentations on September 8, 2014, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Meeting Room 6 at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Each applicant will have 45 minutes for its presentation, with the Location Board taking 15 minutes for its questions. update (Aug. 13, 2014): 1) The presentations will be carried live and archived at www.gaming.ny.gov. The logistics, parameters and procedures for the applicant presentations may be found here; 2) Capital Region applications will be presented in the afternoon session, with the Schenectady casino applicant scheduled in the last spot, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m).

follow-up (Aug. 13, 2014): Is 15 minutes enough for the Board’s questing? At first, I was skeptical that 15 minutes would be adequate for a 5-member Board, but this explanation to me in an email from Lee Park, the Gaming Commission’s Director of Communication, has me believing that it could be enough:

The schedule for presentations allows for questions from the Board members at any time during the presentation. The guidance document issued today provides guidelines for the applicants to plan on a 45 minute presentation with 15 minutes for questions. Those question could be interspersed throughout an applicant’s presentation. Please note that the Gaming Facility Location Board members and staff have been actively reviewing the unredacted application materials since they were submitted on June 30 and that there are several ways in which the Board can seek clarification or explanation regarding a specific component of an application. The RFA states:

“The Board, through its designees, reserves the right to contact any Applicant  after the submission of its Application exclusively for the purpose of clarifying any item submitted in its Application to ensure mutual understanding. This contact may include written questions, interviews, site visits, or requests for corrective pages in the Application. Responses must be submitted to the Board within the time specified in the request. As applicable, clarifications will be treated as addenda to an Application….” (Section III.L., page 16-17)

“In addition to any authority set forth elsewhere in this RFA, the Board reserves the authority to: … 7. Seek clarifications and revisions to Applications; 8. Use information obtained through site visits, management interviews, the State’s investigation of an Applicant’s qualifications, experience, ability or financial standing, any material or information submitted by the Applicant in response to the request by the Board for clarifying information in the course of evaluation and/or selection under this RFA or otherwise;…” (Section III.M., page 17)

  • dontforgettack Capital Region Public Hearing: Public presentations to the Location Board regarding each of the four Capital Region applicants (described in the Press Release as “day-long public comment events”) will take place on September 22, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Albany Holiday Inn Turf, 205 Wolf Road, in Colonie.  Click for Google Map Directions. The Board says that “Each public comment event will be open to the public, Web cast on the Commission’s site and recorded for Board’s use in its evaluation of applicants.” If you have more questions about either event, contact Lee.Park@gaming.ny.gov.
    • click for the Location Board’s Protocol for Public Comment Events
    • As representative of Stop the Schenectady Casino, I (David Giacalone) have been given the 10:00 to 10:05 A.M. time slot at the Capital Region public comment event.

Our Stop the Schenectady Casino group will, of course, make a submission to the Location Board prior to the September 22 public hearing.  We are not certain yet the form it will take, but are contemplating a relatively short Summary, followed by arguments and authorities for each point made, and an appendix with any charts or photos, or letters from individual opponents.  If you have ideas for organizing or drafting our Opposition Submission, use the Comment box or the Contact Tab above to let us know.  Individuals, groups and organizations may, of course, submit separate letters to the Location Board.  The Request for Applications [RFA] states that the Board would announce the form in which it will accept submissions from the public, but has not done so yet.

As we quoted in June, the RFA also states:

[at 22] Public Hearing

“The Board expects to convene public hearing in each Region to provide the Board with the opportunity to address question and concerns relative to the proposal of an applicant to build a Gaming Facility, including the scope and quality of the gaming area and amenities, the integration of the Gaming Facility into the Host Municipality and nearby municipalities and the extent of required mitigation plans and receive input from members of the public from an impacted community.

 “The Applicants for each Region and their agents and representatives are required to attend the public hearing(s) for that Region, may make a presentation and respond to questions of the Board or public comments as directed by the Board or the Board’s designee. Each Applicant must have at least one individual available who, based on actual knowledge, is prepared to respond on behalf of the Applicant to such questions or public comments that can reasonably be anticipated in regard to the contents of its Application, including the scope and quality of the proposed gaming area and amenities, the integration of the proposed Gaming Facility into the Host Municipality and nearby municipalities and the extent or  required mitigation plans.”

[at 23] “Representatives of the Host Municipalities, representatives of nearby municipalities and representatives of any impacted live entertainment venue may attend the public hearing, may make presentations and may respond to questions as directed by the Board or the Board’s designee.  Others may attend the public hearing and may make a presentation at the discretion of the Board. Before the hearing, the Board will prescribe the manner in which it will receive comments from members of the public, and may take the opportunity during the hearing to read into the record any letters of support, opposition or concern from members of the public in the vicinity of the proposed Gaming Facility.”

*_/ Yesterday, August 7, 2014, the Location Board voted unanimously to reject the application of the Amsterdam group, for failure to complete significant portions of the applications.  See TU coverage at Capitol Confidential.

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 4, 2014

a few things the Gazette forgot to mention

GazetteFrontPage03Aug2014

very nice press, if you can get it

    Rush Street Gaming [RSG] got a lot of free public relations puffery on the front page of yesterday’s Sunday Gazette. See “Schenectady Casino Group Praised“, August 2, 2014, by Haley Viccaro; subscription required to view online) Haley’s article is filled with quotes from local development and business officials and Rush Street Gaming’s CEO Greg Carlin, without a word from their detractors, such as Casino-Free Philadelphia, or the Worchester MA citizens group  that was successful in keeping RSG out of their city, nor even from the Stop the Schenectady Casino gang.  Perhaps the article is the Gazette‘s penance and mea culpa to Casino proponents for an earlier article titled “Officials in other cities warn of pitfalls, failed promises by Rush Street“? (June 8, 2014, by Bethany Bump).

Rather than let all the lily-gilding go unanswered, I left a lengthy, red-eye Comment at the Gazette website around 1 A.M. Sunday, which I am reproducing here, minus typos, plus minor supplementation and citations.

comments

dagiacalone says (August 3, 2014, 150 a.m.) …

It sounds as if the Gazette has only talked to casino boosters — Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development staffers, and the like — who sound like Schenectady’s development professionals, with not a bad word to be said about any development. What do casino opponents and advocates for the poor say?
.
Here are a few things your readers should know about SugarHouse in Philadelphia.

(1) Rush Street Gaming [RSG] had scaled down its casino in Philadelphia in response to community concerns about its size, but only four years after opening, it has broken ground on an “addition” that is much larger (at 152,000 sq ft.) than the original casino’s 108,000 sq. ft., with its CEO saying “we’ve waited a long time to do this.” (see philly.com article)
.
(2) RSG’s CEO Carlin brags that the folks at SugarHouse encourage their customers to stay at surrounding hotels. Of course it does: SugarHouse has no hotel of its own and must help customers find suitable lodging nearby.
.
(3)  As to crime near SugarHouse, [Alan Greenberger, Philadephia's Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, is quoted saying "The immediate area actually got safer now that the casino is here.” and the article states that "Rush has disputed claims the casino would negatively impact the city with an increase in crime."]  RSG forgets to mention (as does the Gazette) that Philadelphia PD has created a 14-man unit that solely patrols a one-half mile square around the casino. [A patrol that size would cost over $1 million annually in total compensation in Schenectady.] That surely accounts for all or most of any drop in crime.  Unfortunately, however, there has been “displacement” and the area just past that half-mile radius (analogous to our Stockade neighborhood and Union College’s College Park area) has seen very large increases in vehicle theft and vehicle break-ins.

For discussion of the recent study of crime near SugarHouse since its opening in 2010, which describes the dedicated police patrol and crime displacement to close neighborhoods, see our posting “did crime go up around the SugarHouse casino?”.
.
That study also says that ““Violent street felonies increased in the target area compared with the control area.” The authors of the report say the increase was not significant, but it clearly undermines any claim that the area “got safer”. [Id.]
.
(4) At SugarHouse, RSG has specifically targeted young gamblers by creating a less-complicated form of craps, called “Props & Hops.” [see "Sugarhouse Develops a New, Simplified Craps Game For Younger Players", CBS6, May 2, 1014; SugarHouse Props & Hops Brochure] It has also recently added a large number of poker tables. They plan to have 12 poker tables in Schenectady, at a casino only a block from a major undergraduate Union College dorm, and a few blocks from Union’s campus of poker fanatics. Since New York is one of the few states that allows 18 year-olds to gamble, we can surely expect a lot of promotions aimed at our pre-21 crowd.
.
Finally (for now), RSG claims in its Application that there will be no increase in the prevalence of problem gambling in Schenectady, because our residents can already go to Racino in Saratoga, or to Foxwoods in Connecticut, or Atlantic City. Apparently, no one on the Applicant’s team has read the many reports showing that gamblers go to casinos a lot more often when there is one conveniently nearby. In fact, studies show that the number of problem gamblers doubles in the area within ten miles of a new casino.  [See, e.g.,  The Impacts of Gambling on Local Citizens ; 2)"Why Casinos Matter: Thirty-One Evidence-Based Propositions from the Health and Social Sciences" (A Report from the Council on Casinos, Institute for American Values, 2013), especially at 18.]
.
What other claims has Rush Street Gaming been making that have no basis in fact?
.
Find more about Schenectady’s casino at stoptheschenectadycasino.com

I know Haley Vicarro is a good investigative reporter.  Let’s hope her bosses let her do a sequel to Sunday’s puff-piece on Rush Street Gaming that doesn’t sound like it was penned by RSG’s public relations department.

follow-up (Aug. 14, 2014): How do customers of one of RSG’s urban casinos feel about their experiences? Take a look at Google Customer Reviews of SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia (see Google’s column on the right side of the page).

Posted by: David Giacalone | July 31, 2014

first look at the Schenectady casino Application (with updates)

 At about 6 PM today (Thursday, July 31), I sent an email, in a rush, to my Stockade neighbors with information on the Schenectady casino application.  That email is copied below, supplemented by several more points of interest, and drawings from the Application.
 .
to: HistoricStockade@yahoogroups.con
 .
 I‘ve just taken a quick look at the full Application of Capital Region Gaming LLC, to operate Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, which was put online today by the Gaming Facility Location Board.  The materials are presented online in pdf files, item by item from the Application form, making the items easier to handle and download. Note: It is a heavily “redacted version“, meaning that the Applicant has removed or covered over information that it believes would put it at a competitive disadvantage or would otherwise be exempted by federal or state law if sought in a Freedom of Information request.
 
update (Aug. 14, 2014):  Naturally, the Applicant also submitted an unredacted version to the Location Board.  In an email yesterday responding to  my questions, Lee Park, the Commission’s Director of Communications explained that the redactions in the version of each application made public on July 31 were all made by the applicant, and had not been reviewed by the Commission.  However:
 

With regards to applicants’ redactions to the published application materials: please note that our Counsel is actively reviewing all the submitted redactions to determine whether they are appropriate under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Where discrepancies with redactions may be found, the FOIL outlines a specific legal procedure for reconciliation. If a redaction is ultimately deemed to be inappropriate, it will be removed.

Removing a redaction means “uncovering” the answer given by the Applicant, thus making it available for public inspection. Mr. Park assured me that the public will be notified of any removed redactions.

Here are items that seem to be important or particularly interesting, presented without commentary:

  • Casino-AccessPlan-FrontSt The [image at the front of this sentence] shows a detail from a traffic pattern rendering submitted with the Application (click on it for a larger version). That red arrow in the middle of the image, pointing down Front St. from the parking lot exit, is certainly of interest to those living in the Stockade, who are very concerned about a constant stream (or bumper-to-bumper traffic jam) of vehicles traveling down the narrow streets of the Stockade twenty-four hours of every day. update (Aug. 14, 2014):  The Applicant brags that the casino will bring 2.8 million visitors a year to Schenectady.  The Gazette tells us that: ” T.R. Johnson Engineer of Latham prepared a study in July that looked at traffic impacts from a full build-out of the site with a casino. Access to the site would differ from the original project, as casino patrons would generate 681 new vehicular trips during morning rush hour and 1,615 new trips during evening rush hour.” (“Mohawk Harbor plan given new review“, Aug., 14, 2014, by Bethany Bump)
  • Immediately below is a rendering of the actual casino building:

Casino-RenderBldg

  • Hours of Operation: the Casino plans to be open 24 hrs a day, including its Marketplace; the entertainment/sports lounge will be open until 4 AM, and the Steakhouse until 2 AM
  • Other Proof of Local Support: this is a list of officials, organizations, retailers and other businesses supporting the casino.
  • red check Problem Gambling: funding for treatment programs, along with the prior existence of slots in Saratoga and casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut means that “the addition of gaming at the Rivers Casino is not expected to lead to an increase in the prevalence rates in the local area.”
  • Housing. “The Rivers Casino is expected to have a positive though slight impact on Schenectady’s housing market.”  And, “The Rivers Casino is estimated to increase housing demand by 83 units in the high case or only 0.12% of the projected number of housing units in the county in 2019.”
  • Market Analysis: totally redacted, including answers to how the Casino would attract out-of-state visitors, compete with other gambling facilities nearby, and broaden the appeal of the Region and the Host Municipality
  • Jobs. Plan to Ensure Quality of Jobs and numbers of jobs.  totally redacted
  • Ownership of the Land for last 20 years and plan to acquire rights to use land under a lease of at least 60 years: totally redacted.
  • Consultants: so far, of 19 development consultants, only one is from Schenectady: Re4orm Architecture (hotel architecture), which was hired by the Galesi Group.  No Schenectady County law firm out of ten firms.
  • Floodplain: modeling demonstrates no adverse impact of Mohawk Harbor on the Flood plain nor a raise in the Base Flood Elevation above its current 229 feet.
  • scalesrichpoorLegal Actions within past 10 years or currently ongoing against Applicants: No information given, all redacted.
  • Substitution Effect (the loss of revenue by local businesses because customers spend their money at the casino instead)  “In summary, there is a wealth of evidence contradicting the proposition that gaming substitutes for other expenditures. The positive spillover effect on local hotels for one is unequivocally demonstrated in numerous jurisdictions, even in markets where casinos operate hotels for their gaming customers.” [however,]
  • Sales & Sales Tax: Food and Beverage Sales of $18.92 million, and Hotel sales of $7.52 million are projected, resulting in the payment of $2.42 million in sales taxes being paid.
  • Partnerships with Local Businesses: Names, types of business, dollar amounts, etc, are all redacted.

masks

  • Cultural Institutions:  “Rivers Casino is not anticipated to negatively impact any cultural institution in Schenectady.  Further, some may benefit by increased visitation to the downtown area, particularly Proctors Theater.”  Two case studies are given: The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, both of which had higher attendance after casinos opened. [There is no mention of any Schenectady history nor of the Historic Stockade.]
  • Poker. There will be 12 Poker Tables, in a 3000 sq. ft. hall.
  • Crime: “[T]he perception that casinos breed crime is not supported by the evidence. While the number of reported crimes can increase, as in any commercial development that attracts visitors, such as a shopping mall, casino gaming has not been shown to lead to an increase in crime rates. . . Host communities should anticipate impacts similar in kind to other commercial development of similar scope and visitor potential.”
  • prayinghandsS Public Safety Services: “The introduction of a casino can lead to an increase in traffic patrol requirements and in the number of calls for police service.  Arrests or citations related to increased visitations to the local area will create increased caseloads for the local judiciary  Even calls not resulting in arrest or citation can result a need for increased police staffing. . . . The specific increase in police staffing varies from community to community. As shown in the examples from Indiana, many communities found no need to increase police staffing.”

- share this post with this short URL: http://tinyurl.com/casino1stLook

CasinoApplication-drawings

 – collage of drawings from the Application; click on it for larger version -

- click to see the individual renderings:

  • the Casino and Resort Casino-AttN

.

Casino-AttG-landscape . . . Casino-AttI-Landscape

  • landscape

.

  •   Access Plan: Casino-AccessPlan

.

  •  Casino-AccessDetail-FrontSt Access Detail showing traffic directed onto Front Street toward East Front and Stockade Historic District neighborhoods
Posted by: David Giacalone | July 29, 2014

TWC-Siena poll finds ambivalence

images-8 The Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll that came out yesterday surveyed people from all three regions of the State where applicants are seeking casino licenses that are expected to be awarded this autumn.  See “Exclusive TWC News/Siena Poll Shows Ambivalent Attitude Toward Casinos” (July 28, 2014) Ambivalence is probably the right word, with the public showing an optimistic outlook on revenues and jobs that will be produced by casinos, but agreeing strongly with the statements:

  1. “We already have enough outlets for gambling in New York, we really don’t need new casinos.” [Capital Region results: 56% agree; 40% disagree] and,
  2. “New Casinos will only increase societal problems such as crime and compulsive gambling.” [Capital Region results: 60% agree; 38% disagree]

TWC’s coverage gives figures for the three areas combined, as well as tables showing the results for the various questions, broken down by regions, political parties, political leanings, religion, ages, and income.   At the Times Union, you can find a focus on the Capital Region results. “Poll: Voters divided on Capital Region casino development” (TU Capitol Confidential, by Matthew Hamilton, July 29, 2014)

newspaper update (July 30, 2014): In Part II of TWC-Siena casino poll, “19 percent of those surveyed would gamble more if they lived near a casino. A combined 64 percent said they would likely or very likely attend a concert. More than half said they would go out to dinner at a casino’s restaurant.”  In addition “26 percent overall said they expected either themselves or a member of their household to apply for a job at one of the resorts.”  In its coverage of the poll, the Times Union notes today that in the Capital Region 63 percent say they’re not likely to visit a regional casino.”

Posted by: David Giacalone | July 20, 2014

did crime go up near the SugarHouse Casino?

SugarHouseEntryway

Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino

Prior to the 2010 opening of the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, community groups warned that the casino would lead to an increase in neighborhood crime.  However, according to a news release posted on July 16th by Drexel University, a new study by two Philadelphia researchers “reveals that these concerns were unfounded.”

That claim is based on this conclusion in the study:

In summary, there is no evidence that the opening and operation of the casino had a significantly detrimental effect on the immediate neighborhood in terms of vehicle crime, drug activity, residential burglary or violent street felonies.  

The SugarHouse crime study is entitled “A Partial Test of the Impact of a Casino on Neighborhood Crime;” it was conducted by by Lallen T. Johnson, PhD, an assistant professor of criminal justice in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Jerry H. Ratcliffe, PhD, a professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University; and was published online on by Palgrave MacMillan’s Security Journal.  For coverage in the popular press, see “Study says crime has not risen around SugarHouse Casino” (Philadelphia Inquirer, by Vernon Clark, July 19, 2014); “No Crime Increase Around SugarHouse: Study (NBC10 Philadelphia, July 19, 2014). And see, “The Elusive link between casinos and crime(Pacific-Standard Magazine: The Science of Society, by Lauren Kirchner, July 29, 2014), which ignores the many weaknesses of the study.

 You can safely bet that we are going to hear about this study here in Schenectady, because SugarHouse is operated by Rush Street Gaming and owned by SugarHouse HSP Gaming, LP, which is primarily controlled by Neil Bluhm and his family. (see Pa. Gaming Board ownership listing, at 13-15).  Rush Street Gaming and Bluhm are, of course, the applicants seeking to build a casino in Schenectady.  We are, of course, opponents who have raised concerns over increased crime in the nearby neighborhood. [update (August 4, 2014): See "a few things the Gazette forgot to mention", discussing a claim made to the Schenectady Gazette that the area around SugarHouse "got safer" after the casino opened.]

As indicated above, Johnson and Ratcliffe looked at four categories of crime: violent street felonies, vehicle crime (both theft of vehicles and break-ins), drug crime, and residential burglary in the surrounding community.  [They did not look at DUI or prostitution, two crimes on the short list of worries in the vicinity of an urban casino.]  Their data covered 80 months prior to the opening of the casino and 16 months after the opening.  The authors hoped their work would help answer a perennial question among crime scientists:

sleuth Has the casino’s presence led to increased crime in the immediate area and if not, has crime been simply displaced to nearby locations?

Prior studies have looked at crime statistics at a city or county level. Here, the authors used “geolocated crime data” to examine changes in crime volume in the immediate neighborhood of the casino since its opening; that “casino patrol area” covered an area one-half mile square.  They also looked at crime data for a “displacement area” just outside the “casino patrol area” to see whether the casino or related security and policing had positive or negative effects on that nearby area. (see Figure 1) The displacement area was about the same size as the casino patrol area.

Note: using the same distances as those in the study, one half-mile square, the Stockade District’s southeastern border would fall at the line between the casino patrol area and the displacement area, placing virtually the entire Stockade neighborhood within that potential displacement zone. See Map at the foot of this posting.  Union College’s campus and its College Park off-campus housing complex are also within the endangered areas.

- Figure 1 from SugarHouse Crime Study: map showing data areas -

SugarHouse Map- Figure 1 from  “A Partial Test of the Impact of a Casino on Neighborhood Crime.”

Ninety-six months of crime incident data were examined to determine the extent to which crime counts changed within the Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown after the opening of a new casino.  As stated in the Drexel U. Press Release below, key findings include (emphasis added):

  • Violent street felonies increased at a rate slightly greater than violence in the control area; however, this increase was not statistically significant when examined in the context of the longer trend since 2004.
  • Vehicle crime decreased in the casino area; however, there was substantial displacement and the reductions in vehicle crime were not statistically significant over the long term.
  • Both residential burglary and drug crime decreased in the casino area (again though, not significantly from a statistical perspective) and there were reductions in these crimes in the buffer areas.

Reading that set of Key Findings does not leave me quite as sure as the headlines suggest that we can stop being concerned about more neighborhood crime if Schenectady gets a casino.  Living in the Stockade District, which is in the “displacement zone” of the proposed Schenectady casino, it is difficult to ignore the large increase in vehicle-related crimes. The authors say the increase was not significant “over the long term,” which clearly suggests that it was significant in the short-term, where we actually reside, stroll the neighborhood, buy insurance, watch house price trends, etc.

The authors also say (at 14), regarding “displacement” to the nearby neighborhood:

“The displacement findings are interesting. In anticipation of the casino opening, the 26th Police District commander created the special patrol district, to which were assigned additional police officers. The increased police attention in the special patrol area may have led to the displacement of vehicle crime to the surrounding area. Officers that were re-assigned to the patrol area were not replaced in the rest of the district. It is possible that the relative reduction in personnel outside of the casino area reduced patrol deterrence in the displacement area, while suppressing crime in the target area.”

In their conclusion, Johnson and Ratcliffe modestly state the obvious:

“Findings here do not settle the debate on casino and crime linkages, but contribute to a growing body of knowledge and suggest a need for more neighborhood level research. At the least, findings demonstrate that oft-stated community concerns regarding local crime conditions with the addition of a casino to a neighborhood were not borne out by the SugarHouse Casino example.

Reason for Concern?  Yes. For one thing, some types of crime out of the four categories studied did go up.  The study states:

  • graphup “Violent street felonies increased in the target area compared with the control area.” And,
  • “Vehicle crime decreased in the target area relative to the control area; however, there was substantial displacement indicating that the introduction of the casino made the vehicle crime problem in the combined treatment/buffer area worse than before the casino was opened.”

Beyond those worrisome increases, the failure to include DUI and prostitution is quite significant.  We expect a major increase in vehicles cutting through the Stockade, with drivers who have been drinking for hours, or weary employees and interns, using its narrow, dark streets as a way to avoid scrutiny on the well-lit Erie Boulevard, or simply to take the shorter route to SCCC or the bridge to Scotia and destinations heading west on Route 5.  And, we believe the Stockade’s shadowy streets and available apartments are ready-made for the expected increase in prostitution once the casino starts operation.

Furthermore, we need to ask whether the experience in a city 20 times larger than Schenectady can tell us much about what would happen here.  That issue, in all its facets, needs quite a bit of thought.

More important from a practical point of view, however, is the fact that Johnson and Ratcliffe admit their findings/conclusions are, “Net of unexamined police patrol changes and casino opening simultaneity effects.”  I have nothing useful to add on the issue of the “opening simultaneity effects,” but it appears that the “unexamined police patrol changes” may indeed be significant.  Thus, the very last sentence of the study states (emphasis added):

“Any potential significant crime increases either did not occur, or were effectively controlled by a reassignment of existing local police resources.”

That small word “or” raises big questions.   Here’s how the authors describe the police patrol changes that occurred in September 2010:

red check “When the casino opened in September 2010, the 26th Police District created a special casino patrol area. This area of slightly less than half a square mile (shown in Figure 1) is patrolled by one sergeant and 13 officers who provide coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

It seems to this layperson, that 14 additional officers covering an area one-half mile square in shifts that take time of day and other conditions into account, might indeed have a significant deterrent effect.  In addition, the Casino itself is required by the Gaming Commission to have at least 3 uniformed security men at the door, and has as many as 7 more in the parking lot at  night. Furthermore, the State Police cover the floor of the casino.  As the authors might say, there are a lot of crime managers and guardians on hand in an effort to prevent crime.

Therefore, it appears that we at the very least need to add a big asterisk to those headlines about no increase in crime, and include a footnote with the caveat: “if you’re willing to spend a lot of money on a Police Casino Squad, or to leave other parts of town under-policed.”

GW dollar According to SalaryWiz.com, the medium total compensation package for a patrol officer in Schenectady is $71,965.  When we add the sergeant’s pay to that of his 13 underlings, a 14-officer squad would cost a little over $1 million to replicate in Schenectady.  Would our thrifty City Council pull some of the already scarce night-time patrols from other neighborhoods to keep the Casino Patrol Area adequately staffed?

 Such considerations turn this disclaimer by the authors into a major understatement:

“First, we should note that this is not a stand-alone quasi-experimental evaluation of the introduction of a casino to a neighborhood, due to the additional complication of the Philadelphia Police Department instigating a dedicated patrol to the neighborhood. The additional patrolling from 14 assigned officers may have acted to provide additional deterrence to any criminal activity.”

Johnson & Ratcliffe then say they cannot test in this study “Whether this is sufficient additional patrol for an area to have any impact.”   Most of us would hazard a guess that the patrol is indeed a significant deterrent with a meaningful impact on the crime rates.  And, in the Schenectady context, we would strongly disagree with the authors’ cavalier conclusion “that any additional resources were modest at best.”

So, we’ll be leaving our Crime Will Increase listing up on the Issues Page.  And, we’ll wonder, as we did all Spring, why only Councilman Vincent Riggi thought the City needed to do an analysis of the additional expenses it would be likely to incur if we had a casino operating at the old ALCO site.

CasinoFreePhila I’m going to let our readers answer the headline question at the top of this posting for themselves.

- share this post with this short URL: http://tinyurl.com/PhillyCasinoCrime

.

WikiMap-SchdyCasinoNeighborhood

- wikimapia map of the Casino-East Front-Stockade neighborhood; click on the image for a larger versioin -

Posted by: David Giacalone | July 19, 2014

send comments to the Army Corps of Engineers by August 9

MohawkHarborRendering

the Mohawk Harbor “embayment”

- click to see Galesi Group’s sales Brochure about Mohawk Harbor -

On July 10, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ["USACE"] began a 30-day Public Comment Period on the application of Maxon ALCO Holdings, LLC (a/k/a Galesi Group), for its Mohawk Harbor project at the old ALCO site along the Mohawk River, which includes a marina with a man-made bay.  Maxon ALCO seeks a permit to dredge and discharge fill materials “to facilitate the creation of an embayment, and the widening and stabilization of the river, and the installation of seasonal pier assemblies.” The application mentions that this will be a mixed-use commercial and residential development, with no mention of the possible inclusion of a casino, which may not affect the marina portion of the project.

If you are concerned that the construction at the ALCO site may impact the River in a way that harms or threatens the Stockade (or your particular property or block), by increasing the risk of flooding or ice jams, you should consider writing to voice your concerns. There are three pages of text and 15 pages of submitted drawings in the Complete Public Notice. The textual portion is worth reading, especially if you think you would like to comment.

Comments must be received by August 9, here: dontforgettack

ATTN: Brad Sherwood

  Army Corps of Engineers
New York District, CENAN-OP-R
Upstate Regulatory Field Office
1 Buffington Street, Bldg. 10, 3rd Floor
Watervliet, New York 12189-4000

- or by email to Brad.Sherwood@usace.army.mil

In replying refer to:
Public Notice Number: NAN-2013-01 078

Most of us do not have any technical information or expertise that might aid the USACE, but the Corps wants to hear of our concerns and our assessment of how the risk should be balanced against any benefits to the public from the project, and how much additional risk of damage to the Stockade is acceptable.

xfloes07Mar2011

- ice floes jammed along Riverside Park – March 2011 -

Among the factors the Corps will consider are (emphases added):

conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.”

The USACE webpage for the Mohawk Harbor permit request is HERE.

Posted by: David Giacalone | July 14, 2014

the unpromising future of casino gambling

update: Cuomo on Declining Revenues (July 16, 2014)  Gov. Andrew Cuomo, when asked by reporters yesterday his reaction to predictions of reducds casino revenues due to oversaturation in the Northeast gaming market, responded (in “Cuomo: Size of NY casino play depends on investorsCapital New York, July 15, 2014) :

abacus “The private market, which reads Moody’s, which does this for a living, which is going to invest their money, will make a determination as to what scale and scope the market can support. And they will then build the buildings and employ people and run the business because they think it’s a good business to run.”

The Governor went on to say, “I’m sure they will propose what they believe will be successful.” Cuomo apparently was not concerned, as he told the reporters, “The state isn’t building any casinos. The state isn’t spending any money here, right? These are private companies which normally know what they’re doing.”

The questions for the Governor came at a conference in Niskayuna, where he was announcing the creation of a $500 million power electronics consortium led by General Electric in Albany that would give companies a a place to research and develop important new technologies. The State would pay $135 million to build the infrastructure for the consortium.  If he wasn’t asked at the press conference, we’d like to ask the Governor:

  1. checkedboxs Shouldn’t the Gaming Facility Location Board pause its review of casino applications and ask the applicants to reassess the “scale and scope the market can support” and to adjust their proposals, in light of the experts’ downward predictions? And,
  2. Why take a risk with the financial, fiscal and social problems caused by gaming, when Upstate development can be based on future-oriented, productive industries such as the technology represented by the Power Electronics Consortium?

[original posting]

plungegraphsmY There’s been a flood of recent articles and information pointing to the increasing unlikelihood of any casino fulfilling the glowing promises of revenues and resulting tax reductions and jobs made by its boosters.  For example, since we wrote “psst: the casino cash cow has too many calves” on June 21st, we’ve seen:

  • Moody’s downgrades U.S. gaming industry“, TU Capitol Confidential (July 1, 2014, by Benjamin Oreskes”)    Moody’s report notes a “strong indication that U.S. consumers will continue to limit their spending to items more essential than gaming, even as the U.S. economy continues to improve.”
  • Wait on casino licenses” (Albany Times Union editorial, July 6, 2014).  Here’s part of their discussion:

“These pessimistic prognostications merely underscore what is already known in New York. A lot of people will have to spend a lot of money at the new casinos if they are to deliver what those who pushed the state constitutional amendment had promised: job growth, increased school aid and lower property taxes. Developers of the proposed gaming resort for Schenectady, for example, predict attendance there would be around 7,500 on weekdays and 10,000 on weekend days. It’s hard not to be skeptical.

plungegraphsmBlack “The problems in other states suggest that the long-term success of New York’s planned casinos is dubious. And when casinos fail, all you have left is unemployment, empty buildings that can’t pay taxes and calls for a government bailout to rescue a struggling industry.”

  • Trump Plaza Casino In Atlantic City Expected To Close, Owners Say” (Huffington Post/AP, July 12, 2014):  “Atlantic City’s crumbling casino market disintegrated even further Saturday as the owners of the Trump Plaza casino said they expect to shut down in mid-September. . .  . If Trump Plaza closes, Atlantic City could lose a third of its casinos and a quarter of its casino workforce in less than nine months.”
  • Gambling on Casinos in New York” (New York Times editorial, July 13, 2014): “A five-member state board appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is supposed to choose four sites and the companies that can build on them by this fall. This seems much too hurried. As Moody’s is warning, it is time to beware of all the promotional hoopla and realize that casino gambling does not always deliver on its promise.”
  • Fred LeBrun: “Minds once lost can be found again” (Albany Times Union, July 12, 2014): “We plunge ahead without so much as a nod from our leading politicians that wagering on casinos as an economic development tool may be a sucker’s bet and that just maybe we ought to take a harder look at ‘none of the above’ for the time being, whether there’s now a constitutional amendment in place allowing casinos or not.

    . . . “But not a peep. It’s a credit to how much can be bought in New York state for the $11 million the gaming industry spent in lobbying the same top pols.

    plungegraphsmMatte

    “It’s predictably annoying that our State Gaming Commission continues to take a strong stand in defense of the gambling crowd. It’s become the industry’s prime booster. . . .

    “What’s bothersome about the boosterism is that the Gaming Commission is also by statute the regulator of all gambling in New York. Its pronouncements show bias, which is at the very least inappropriate, unwise and not a confidence builder for the commission’s broader and thornier mandate to do what’s best, gambling-wise, for all New Yorkers even if that could ultimately mean saying no to everybody.”

    - each of the above articles is worth reading in full -

threemonkeys So, what are the unflinching boosters of the Schenectady casino thinking these days?  Mr. Mayor Gary McCarthy?  Madame Council President King? Stockade Association President Mary D’Alessandro?  The Trustees and Acting President of Schenectady County Community College?  The Me-too City Council members: Mootoveren, Kosiur, Perazzo? The Council’s self-appointed “financial analyst” Carl Erickson? Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors (and chief instigator and negotiator for what we like to call the FairGame Concert Cartel)?

How big of a gamble are the casino cheerleaders willing to take?  How do they weigh the self-interested promises of Galesi Group and Rush Street Gaming against the prospect of the probable increase in crime, problem gambling, and domestic violence, and a decrease in property values and the livability of the Stockade neighborhood?   Are they willing to accept the soul-deadening tradeoff of adopting a soak-the-poor fiscal policy, and the growth of problem gambling among our elderly and our college students, in the hope of obtaining increasingly uncertain future payments from the Casino, which they hope will appease the City’s taxpayers?  Does the shiny future they predict for Schenectady include the sight of a failing casino project along Schenectady’s riverfront and the inevitable request for tax breaks and financial assistance that we can expect once gaming revenues shrink along the Mohawk?

smallquestionmark Perhaps the most important question is: Do any of the so-called leaders mentioned above have the courage to stand up and ask the Gaming Facility Location Board to reject the Schenectady casino proposal, or at least to put off granting any license for the Capital Region, until it is much more certain that the jobs and revenue projections are realistic, given the tidal wave of negative predictions about the industry’s prospects?

Don’t forget: the Location Board has the power to reject all of the applications if none of them appears to meet the goals and requirements set up in the enabling statute and the Request for Applications.

As is stated in Section IV. A of the Request for Applications to Develop or Operate a Gaming Facility in New York State [Adobe pdf. version] ["RFA"] (at page 19):

In accordance with PML Section 1314.3, “Within any development region, if the commission is not convinced that there is an applicant that has met the eligibility criteria or the board finds that no applicant has provided substantial evidence that its proposal will provide value to the region in which the gaming facility is proposed to be located, no gaming facility license shall be awarded in that region.”

And, See RFA Sec. III  [at 17]

M. State’s Reserved Authority.

In addition to any authority set forth elsewhere in this RFA, the Board reserves the authority to:

3. Amend the RFA and direct Applicants to submit modifications to their Applications accordingly;

5. Reject any or all Applications received in response to this RGA, and reissue a modified version of this RFA;

6.  Withdraw the RFA at any time, at the sole discretion of the Board.

- share this post with this short URL: tinyurl.com/unpromisingCasinos

Posted by: David Giacalone | July 11, 2014

render unto Caesars

update/correction (July 12, 2014): The large building pictured in the “rendering” found in both the Gazette and Times Union yesterday, which they labelled at the time as the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor (see below), is not the casino portion of the project.  It is, instead, the proposed hotel that will be built along with the casino. That’s good, in my opinion, as it looks more like a hospital or assisted living facility (which might have, at least, served one of the casino’s main target demographics).

Here is a rendering showing a broader view of the entire project (click on it for a larger version):

Casino-ProjectRendering

Rendering of Casino proposed Schenectady Casino, Hotel, Parking Garage

- detail: #1 is the poorly-illustrated casino itself -

According to an article in Saturday’s Gazette (“Schenectady casino vision unveiled
Project’s hotel would overlook Mohawk“, by Haley Viccaro, C1, July 12, 2014):

“As shown in the rendering, the hotel would overlook the river, with the single-story casino behind it. An enclosed walkway would be built to connect an indoor parking garage to the hotel and casino.”

By the way, click Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor to see their remarkably uninformative website.  They do let you “stay in the loop” by signing up for email updates.  (You do have to give the your Full Name.)

[original posting, July 11, 2014:]

What does a world-class destination casino look like these days? With no editorial comment, I present a rendering of the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor that was unveiled this afternoon:

SchdyCasinoRendering

Feel free to leave your (frank, but polite) impressions of the building design in a comment [Note: as discussed in the Update/Correction at the top of this posting, this image is actually the hotel portion of the casino project.]

Posted by: David Giacalone | July 8, 2014

Rev. Baron’s excellent questions

SBaron9Jun2014

Rev. Sara Baron

Over the past weekend, I went to Open Stage Media’s Video on Demand page to find the video of the June 9th Meeting of the Schenectady City Council.  That was, of course, the meeting where over 80 people signed up to use the Privilege of the Floor for a chance to tell the Council (in three minutes or less) what they thought about Item #4 on its Legislative Agenda: the resolution to approve of the application for a casino in Schenectady.   I had heard so much about the presentation of  Rev. Sara Baron, pastor of The First United Methodist Church Schenectady, that I wanted to see it for myself. [Although present for the Council Meeting, I was out in the hallway getting quite a few anti-casino signatures, as well as some water and fresher air, at the time Rev. Baron was at the podium, so I missed her.]

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/files/2008/05/under07.jpg The new fans Sara Baron made that night were right. Her words — and especially a number of questions that she asked those in attendance — were important and telling.  You see, those of us against the casino were unpleasantly surprised to discover that long before the Meeting was to start at 7 P.M., folks with big “Yes!” stickers on their chests and toting coordinated blue signs had filled more than half the seats.  Given the brawny size of many of the men squeezed into the pews, it looked like the local construction unions and contractors had gotten out the rank and file.  And, the long, parade-like line of fresh young faces that also arrived early seemed to be SCCC and cosmetology students.

 Since it is no secret that the men representing the casino applicants were not Schenectadians, we naturally wondered just how many of those in the impressively large “Casino Yes” crowd actually came from Schenectady.

Rev. Baron’s questions helped give us the answer.  In the following collage you can see two of her “show of hands” questions and their answers (click on the image for a larger version), as she attempts to find out how many of those for and against the casino live in Schenectady:

- above: within view of the Open State Media, 8 casino opponents indicate they live in Schenectady, but only one casino supporter – Rev. Baron’s 3-minute statement to the Council begins 104 minutes into the June 9, 2014 video -

As you can see from the top left photo of the collage, the Open Stage Media camera was not able to show the entire audience section of the Council Chambers when it focused on the podium.  I wish it had, because the video fails to show the sea of construction workers and other casino supporters whose hands stayed down when asked if they lived in Schenectady.  Nonetheless, the slice of the audience shown is, I believe, representative of the full assemblage.

  • images-5 Here’s how Mike Hendricks, Editor-in-chief of Albany Business Review, described Rev. Baron’s presentation, in a Viewpoint column called “Computer chips or poker chips” (June 16, 2014):

“The room was filled mostly with people waving blue “Yes” signs. But when Sara Baron, the pastor of the First Schenectady Methodist Church, had her turn to speak she asked everyone to put their signs down. With her back to the crowd she asked a series of questions of the audience. Were they here to discuss the casino? Did they support the casino? Her last question asked for those opposed to the casino, and who were residents of the city, to raise their hands. For all the people waving “Yes” signs and speaking in favor of the casino, the sentiment in the room among those who actually live in the city was anti-casino.

“The Rev. Baron then asked the council to table the motion to provide more time to get a sense for community sentiment. Then she laughed and said she was too realistic and knew they wouldn’t delay the vote.

“That moment highlighted some of the divisions the Cuomo’s casino issue creates.”

In the column, Hendricks also writes about a tour he had of the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Saratoga County, where he was amazed.  He then moves into the poker chip portion of the piece, where he notes that “While his father gave northern New York a prison economy, this Cuomo is pushing casinos as job creators upstate.” And, “While the chip plant was a local initiative, the casinos are coming from the top down. Cuomo decided”.

It is perhaps no surprise that a far larger portion of the people against the casino were Schenectady residents than were those supporting the casino.  Of course, it’s not  inappropriate for those hoping to receive jobs during either the construction stage or the operating stage of the casino, or those hoping to get rich(er) from the casino, to voice their support.  But, it is important to keep in mind that the appearance of a significant majority in Schenectady supporting the casino based on the audience at the Council Meeting is as misleading as the appearance of there being a true majority on the Council itself fully supporting the application based on their 5-2 vote that evening.  In both cases, individuals took the position their “boss” wanted them to take, or the position that seemed to be dictated by the promised gold to be found in future casino treasure chests.

threemonkeys NIMBY v. PITY.   As with many of the biggest and most powerful proponents of casinos in Massachusetts (see the NIMBY page at Repeal the Casino Deal), it is a lot easier to support a Schenectady casino when it is not in your own backyard.  With a project as socially toxic as a casino, NIMBYism is both natural and healthy.  Unfortunately, the hypocritical version of NIMBYism that I call PITYism — Put It in Their Yard — might be “natural” for those who hope to gain financially from a casino, but it is unhealthy for the community as a whole. I have to wonder how the construction workers and SCCC students would feel about having a casino in Schenectady, if they lived here and did not expect to get a casino-related job.

 After watching the portion of the Meeting video just prior to Rev. Baron’s presentation, I’d like to make two further points:

1. dice One gentleman casino supporter (from Rotterdam) voiced his amazement that the “nay-sayers” could oppose a project that would turn what has been a brownfield eyesore into a beautiful casino facility.   That is, of course, a false choice.  He could not possibly mean that anything is better than the ALCO brownfield.  More to the point, we know that the Galesi Group had planned to go forward with its $150 million Mohawk Harbor Marina project before there was any notion of a casino taking up the rest of the ALCO land.  See this Albany Business Review article from Nov. 6, 2013, and “Galesi Group unveils $150M-plus ‘Mohawk Harbor’ in Schenectady” (Albany Business Journal, April 3, 2014).  Savvy Mssrs. Galesi and Buicko would not spend $150 million on a hotel, condos, etc., and leave the rest of the ALCO eyesore next door.  Removing any old factory remnants and planting a nice lawn would be the least we’d expect for that brownfield.

In addition, the same gentleman had an ironic slip of the tongue.  He quoted our currency and Tony Danza for the phrase “e pluribus union.”, saying it meant “we are all one.” Given that crowd on June 9, “we are all union” might not have been far off.  (Of course, “e pluribus unum” means “from the many one”, referring to the many states becoming one nation.)  He stated the hope that, all being one, even the naysayers will come and gamble at the casino once it is built.  How open-minded.

2.  A young woman supporting the casino identified herself as an SCCC student, saying having the casino would fulfill her dream of working in the gaming industry without leaving Schenectady.  Whatever we might think of that dream, it seems that East Greenbush, or Rensselaer, or even Howe’s Cavern would make a comfortable commute from Schenectady, allowing her to work in her chosen field without bringing the problems of an urban casino to her beloved Schenectady.

She ended her comments to the Council by saying that we should not be concerned about people gambling too much, as every individual must take responsibility for his or her own choices.   Yes, we do have to take responsibility for our choices and actions, but we also should be concerned not merely for the effects of gambling addiction and debt on the gambler, but also on his or her children and family.  Furthermore, if problem gamblers with easy access to a Schenectady casino multiply in Schenectady or the County, our whole community will voluntarily or not end up being responsible for feeding and sheltering many families, and protecting many victims of domestic violence.

Posted by: David Giacalone | July 1, 2014

10 of 17 casino applicants accept FairGame’s terms

 The Albany Times Union reported this afternoon that: “The Upstate Theater Coalition for a Fairgame” said Tuesday that it has reached agreements with 10 of the 17 casino applicants seeking casino licenses in the three upstate regions eligible for commercial gambling halls.” (“Entertainment coalition nets majority of casino bidders“, Capitol Confidential Blog, by James M. Odato, July 1, 2014). The three Capital Region applicants that have partnered with “FairGame” are Schenectady’s Rush Street Gaming, the Hard Rock Café in Rensselaer, and the Howe Caverns Casino.

According to TU’s Capitol Confidential, Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors and chairman of Fairgame, said:

“While we were not able to come to accord with a number of other applicants, the agreements we have reached are significant. They clearly declare the size and scope of casino entertainment plans; they have joint booking agreements that will guarantee access for the casinos and for Fairgame members to touring performers; they support the Fairgame Fund for those same facilities; and they establish arts granting programs for smaller organizations in every region. Finally, should the plans the casinos propose be significantly changed, each applicant has agreed to mitigate those impacts with additional support.”

SlicingThePie By also reaching agreement with seven applicants in the two other Upstate regions that are eligible for casino licenses, the “FairGame” Coalition (a/k/a The Concert Cartel) may end up achieving joint booking and venue-size limitations, and a revenue-sharing agreement with each of the 3 or 4 winning casinos.  That could mean the equivalent of territorial exclusivity, and joint booking and ticket pricing, for all/each of FairGame members, across all of the eastern portion of Upstate New York, through midState locations such as Utica and Syracuse, and apparently stretching to their members in the Western end of the State.

Will the members of the FairGame Coalition be allowed to try to leverage the protection that the State meant to give local and regional entertainment venues from local casinos into a vast network of competition-killing promises among themselves and between each entertainment center and far-spread casinos covering several large regions, and perhaps all of Upstate New York?

NYg My “State Action” Analysis: To survive antitrust scrutiny, the FairGame group would need to justify such clearly anticompetitive joint action with a “state action” defense: the claim that their action is immunized from the antitrust laws because of the actions and policy of the State where the conduct takes place.  However, just last year, in its FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health Sys. Inc. (No. 11-1160, 2013) opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated that state-action immunity is a disfavored exception that will get careful examination before being accepted. The Phoebe Putney Court further stressed that to successfully invoke state-action immunity, state laws should be explicit in their intent to displace competition.  In addition, although the issue was not reached in Phoebe Putnam, prior cases have required that the state must “actively supervise” the conduct that would otherwise be deemed anticompetitive where — as here — the actors are private parties rather than governmental entities.

The FairGame Coalition may be able to show that New York State wanted to limit the competition that entertainment venues would normally face from a nearby casino, when it passed The Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013.  But they cannot show that the State wanted to greatly reduce competition among the major art and entertainment centers themselves, or even between the arts venues and casinos that would not normally be considered part of their local entertainment market.  The Act merely requires that the Siting Board evaluate whether the applicant has established:

“a fair and reasonable partnership with live entertainment venues that may be impacted by a gaming facility under which the gaming facility actively supports the mission and the operation of the impacted entertainment venues.” [§1320(3)(2)(D)]

As of COB today, I have not received any sort of reply from the State Attorney General’s office on the antitrust Complaint that I submitted last Friday. See our June 28th posting “arts venues want more than a fair game“.

- share this posting with this short URL: http://tinyurl.com/TenOfSeventeen

 p.s. I am not sure when Philip Morris and his cartel cohorts stopped calling themselves a Coalition for a Fair Game, and instead became a Coalition for a “FairGame”. By removing that innocent space between fair and game, the Coalition may have inadvertently signaled that it no longer merely wanted  their game with the casinos to be fair, but would be treating the casino applicants as “fair game“:  A person or thing that is considered a reasonable target for criticism, exploitation, or attack.

Posted by: David Giacalone | June 28, 2014

arts venues want more than a fair game

SlicingThePie It’s been twenty-five years since I practiced antitrust law at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.  But, it’s still a good bet that when a bunch of major competitors get together and start throwing the word “fair” around, they are hoping to limit competitive pressure on themselves by placing restrictions on market forces that are helping to give consumers more choices and lower prices.  It seems to me that is what is happening with the Fair Game campaign that the UpState Theater Coalition for a Fair Game has turned into “joint negotiations” with casino owners.

It was one thing — and probably a useful thing — for the major arts venues across Upstate New York to lobby the legislature and the Gaming Commission last year. They were successful inserting into the casino application process the requirement that applicants take into account the needs of local arts and entertainment venues, and attempt to enter into partnerships that would help assure the casino does not take away so much business or garner so many big acts that they cause grievous injury to important local entertainment venues.  It is quite another for the Fair Game folks to morph into a joint negotiation team with a long litany of restrictions and financial obligations they hope to impose on all casino operators.  They are now using the tight deadlines of the application process as a club to strengthen their powers of “persuasion”.

trustbuster Teddy Roosevelt

trust-buster

Antitrust law frowns on the use of collective action or coercion by competitors to impose their will on others and to keep the group of competitors marching to a single beat.  That’s why I wrote yesterday to the N.Y. State Attorney General asking that the Antitrust Bureau look into the lawfulness of the activities of the Fair Game group, which includes 13 major arts venues located across Upstate New York, including the five major theaters and entertainment centers in the Capital Region (Proctor’s in Schenectady, whose CEO Philip Morris is chairing the group.; SPAC and Saratoga City Center; and the Palace and Times Union Center in Albany), plus organizations in nearby Bethel, Kingston, Binghampton and Utica.

If Schenectady is saddled with a casino and its operators have greatly limited their ability to compete with the biggest arts venues, the average resident of our City and County will lose (at least) twice: saddled both with the casino and with fewer choices and higher prices likely at Proctor’s and at the other large entertainment centers in Albany, Saratoga, the Region and beyond.  Here is the explanation that I wrote on June 27 in my Complaint to the Attorney General (slightly edited for clarity):

   Fair Game is taking advantage of the Casino Siting process, which includes criteria concerning the formation of partnerships with affected local entertainment venues.  Fair Game is using collective action among the largest theater venues in the State to pressure casino applicants — who are major potential competitors with such entertainment venues — into accepting a stringent, uniform set of restrictions and financial obligations in order to demonstrate Local Support in the Application process.  That pressure is greatly magnified by the very tight and imminent deadlines for all Applicants. 

    As seen in news articles such as the one that appeared in today’s Schenectady Gazette, Fair Game members not only seek to eliminate competition with casinos for top talent and productions, but also have agreed among themselves to a formula for dividing the revenues received from casinos. See Coalition asking for a piece of casinos’ actionby Haley Viccaro (June 27, 2014, at A6; see also “Coalition, casinos yet to sign deals”, at A1)

     This appears to go far beyond any possible State Action defense under legislation establishing the casino licensing process for restricting competition among themselves and with casinos.  The major entertainment venues are encouraged under the Act to enter into partnerships with “local casinos”, they are not given the freedom to eliminate competition among themselves, nor to prevent competition from all casinos within a large (seemingly unlimited) region.

    For example, in explaining the concept of Partnerships with Live Entertainment Venues, the Request for Applications for Gaming Facilities [RFA] seeks “copies of any and all contracts, agreements, MOUs or other understandings with live entertainment venues that may be impacted by the Gaming Facility.” (at 60). Also, in their applications, each applicant must include, in Ex. IX.B.2, copies of “agreements with impacted entertainment venues” and any declined agreements.  (RFA at 74-75)  One omnibus agreement with a coalition of venues is clearly not anticipated (nor, separate agreements which merely take collective terms and apply them in a separate contract with each venue).

    At its website, Fair Game brags about its “collective impact” in ticket receipts, jobs created, moneys invested, etc.  Major theaters such as Proctors and SPAC and the Times Union Center already have ticket prices for major acts and productions that are far out of reach of large percentages of residents of our region.   By acting jointly, they are likely to increase their ability to raise prices, not only by eliminating future competition from casinos, but also competition within the siting application process with eachother to form advantageous partnerships with local casinos.  (The ability of the East Greenbush applicant to achieve agreements separately with local venues shows that a joint bargaining team of theaters is not needed.)

    The partnerships envisioned under The Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act (Chapters 174 and 175 of the Laws of 2013), appear to favor the largest theaters, further disadvantaging the small and “mom-and-pop” venues and businesses that are likely to see the disposable income of many customers spent instead at a local casino.

    For the past couple of weeks, Philip Morris has gone public with his pressure for applicants to accept the collective terms of the Fair Game members.  Clearly, Fair Game hopes to use the looming June 30 application deadline to pressure-coerce casinos to sign onto their scheme.   I hope the Attorney General will make some sort of statement today cautioning Fair Game from attempting to wield such undue coercive power.

  Thank you for considering this last-minute appeal for action.

 Jim Odato covered my AG Complaint yesterday at the Times Union” at the Capital Confidential weblog, Anti-casino lawyer complains to AG about arts groups and antitrust(Capitol Confidential, June 27, 2014), and a related TU article.  The article ends:

“Morris said he would await word from Schneiderman before commenting, although he said he did not get legal advice before pursuing the agreements with casino teams on behalf of his coalition of entertainment entities.”

The Gazette carried an article by Haley Viccaro this morning, “Schenectady casino foe says Fair Game pact would be illegal” (June 28, 2014, C3).

NYg update: State Action: See our posting  “10 of 17 casino applicants accept Fair Game’s-terms“, reacting to “Entertainment coalition nets majority of casino bidders“, The Times Union Capitol Confidential Blog, by James M. Odato, July 1, 2014. The posting contains an analysis of the application of the State Action Doctrine to the actions of the FairGame coalition: that is, whether any action by the State or the Racing Commission has given the Coalition immunity from the charge that their collective negotiation violates the antitrust laws.

Even if Fair Game does not hammer out agreements with the casinos before submission of their complete applications on Monday, June 30, the groups may continue in July to pressure casinos who want to strengthen their demonstration of support by the local arts and entertainment venues.   An admonition or cautionary statement from the Attorney General might lessen that pressure.

Yesterday afternoon, I also sent the following email message to a Gaming Commission spokesman. It concerns a Statement made in October 2013 about Fair Game that some may suggest blesses the collective negotiations by the theater group:

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | June 21, 2014

psst: the casino cash cow has too many calves

toomanycalves

too many calves!

 An article in the Wall Street Journal this week revealed the Big Secret that everyone who’s done a little research, or just reads a newspaper regularly, already knows:  The great expansion of casinos in the Northeast over the past decade is “causing upheaval in the region.”  “Casino boom pinches northeastern states” (Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2014)  Indeed:

“States that adopted gambling earlier than their neighbors, such as Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia, are watching dollars drain away, and new projects have some wondering how many facilities the area can support. Twenty-six casinos have opened since 2004, fueling a 39% increase in total annual gambling revenue in the mid-Atlantic and New England, according to a study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Within 100 miles of Philadelphia, there now are 24 casinos, a big shift from the early 1990s, when Atlantic City, N.J., enjoyed an East Coast monopoly. At least a dozen more gambling spots are in the pipeline from Massachusetts to Maryland, raising fears in states such as Rhode Island that their casino tax windfall is at risk.

In reaction to the resulting dwindling of revenues:

  • Delaware casinos are asking the State for a $20 million tax break. “Delaware’s proposed tax relief for casinos, which needs legislative approval, would lower the table-game tax rate, eliminate fees and shift vendor costs to the state.”
  • “Delaware officials say declining gambling money—down 29% since fiscal 2011—is one reason the state cut 538 public jobs over the past five years.”
  • Public services have been reduced, in places like Ocean County, N.J., “because of a dip in casino revenues that fund programs for the elderly and disabled.”
  • Connecticut has forecast a 5% decline in state revenue from casinos in fiscal 2016 and a 20% drop the following year, and “Rhode Island is projecting it will lose about $422 million in casino revenue over the next five years, contributing to budget struggles.”

threemonkeys Somehow, the Casino Cheerleaders that have steamrolled approval of the Schenectady casino through the City Council and County Legislature seem oblivious to these trends. Maybe Mayor Gary McCarthy or County Planner Ray Gillen have some secret plan that will make Schenectady immune from the forces that have greatly reduced projections of casino revenues and put overly-reliant government budgets at risk.  As the casino cash cow is sucked dry by all those hungry calves, maybe the ALCO pig can fly and Galesi’s Goose really does lay golden eggs.

update (July 1, 2014):  Yesterday, the same day that 16 applicants seeking licenses for 17 UpState casino licenses dropped boxes and flashdrives with their final Applications to the Siting Board, with all their rosy predictions, Moody’s downgraded the outlook for the U.S. gaming industry from “stable” to “negative”.  See “Moody’s downgrades U.S. gaming industry“, TU Capitol Confidential (July 1, 2014, by Benjamin Oreskes”)    Moody’s report notes a “strong indication that U.S. consumers will continue to limit their spending to items more essential than gaming, even as the U.S. economy continues to improve.”

follow-up (July 8, 2014): Noting Atlantic City casinos that have recently declared bankruptcy or closed, along with the Moody’s report discussed above, and the Comptroller’s words of caution (in “DiNapoli: Gaming Revenue Plays Increasing Role In State Budget”  (NYS Comptroller Report, May 2014), the Albany Times Union‘s editorial board said on Sunday that the Siting Board should “Wait on casino licenses” (July 6, 2014).  Here’s part of their discussion:

“These pessimistic prognostications merely underscore what is already known in New York. A lot of people will have to spend a lot of money at the new casinos if they are to deliver what those who pushed the state constitutional amendment had promised: job growth, increased school aid and lower property taxes. Developers of the proposed gaming resort for Schenectady, for example, predict attendance there would be around 7,500 on weekdays and 10,000 on weekend days. It’s hard not to be skeptical.

“The problems in other states suggest that the long-term success of New York’s planned casinos is dubious. And when casinos fail, all you have left is unemployment, empty buildings that can’t pay taxes and calls for a government bailout to rescue a struggling industry.”

For more on this topic, see and our compilation posting, “the unpromising future of casino gambling” (July 14, 2014).

 

Posted by: David Giacalone | June 18, 2014

why are Mass. voters saying No to casinos?

 update (June 24, 2014): The highest court of Massachusetts decided today to allow a question seeking repeal of the state’s casino gambling law to go on the November state ballot.  See “Voters to decide fate of Massachusetts casino law“, AP/Boston Herald, June 24, 2014). Observers expect the gaming industry to wage an enormous advertising campaign, probably aided by labor unions, and other corporate groups who benefit from the operation of casinos. The article states: “John Ribeiro, chairman of the group Repeal The Casino Deal, said opponents were prepared for a ‘David versus Goliath’ fight in which they’ll likely be outspent ‘100 to 1,’ as they were in many communities that held local votes on casino proposals.”

 When the Massachusetts Gaming Commission met last week to select a licensee for the first resort-casino in the state, to be located in Western Massachusetts, there was only one casino proposal in contention, and the license granted was “tentative”?

 Do you suppose the casino cheerleaders in Schenectady City Hall and the County Building know why?

  • The MGM-Springfield application was the only remaining proposal in Western Massachusetts, because voters went to the ballot box and rejected all the other applicants.  Only Springfield would gamble on a casino.
  • And, the license can only be tentative, because over 90,000 people signed an initiative petition they hope will be on the statewide ballot on November 5, 2014, which would make the existing 2011 law allowing casinos void.. The courts are deciding whether to allow the initiative on the ballot.  If the Initiative is not allowed on the ballot or is defeated on Nov. 5, MGM’s Springfield license would go into effect.  Observers believe the Repeal the Casino Deal Initiative has a pretty good chance of succeeding, if it is on the ballot. See this Boston.com article.

In town after town, the people of Massachusetts or their elected officials have rejected specific proposed casinos.  And, across the State, tens of thousands of adults want the Casino Deal overturned, because they believe it is a very bad bargain for the people of their Commonwealth.

SmallShark Go to the lively Repeal the Casino Deal website for answers to my questions, and many more, with voluminous Resources, and a NIMBY page of Massachusetts leaders who are pro-casino, but have admitted they would not want to live near one.

Posted by: David Giacalone | June 18, 2014

casinos bring property values down

  Common sense suggests that living close to a casino will drive down your property values. The tentative conclusions made by the National Association of Realtors Research arm in “Economic Impact of Casinos on Home Prices Literature Survey and Issue Analysis” strongly confirm that assumption.  The paper analyzed information from across the nation, but was done with a focus on the proposed downtown casino in Springfield, Massachusetts.   In addition to looking at the effects on residential realty prices, the Survey presents numerous other factors that could cause negative or positive externalities for a specific casino.

As for home prices, the Survey concludes that “The impact on home values appears to be unambiguously negative. ”  It continues [at 2-3]:

“We estimate that assessed home values will most likely be negatively impacted by $64 to $128 million from the introduction of a casino into Springfield, although there are many variables that could shift the price impact to be either more or less severe. In addition, pathological gambling could result in social costs of $8.4 million per year, possibly significantly higher. Additional foreclosures could produce costs of $5million per year. Finally, there would probably be a negative impact on local retail businesses as local consumer expenditures were diverted to some degree to casino gaming, and a need for additional government expenditures to provide needed public services (police, fire, medical, etc.).”

SlicingThePie Another factor emphasized in the Survey is distances between casinos. “Casinos that are close to each other tend to split the available business, reducing profitability.”  Thus, “In the case of Springfield Massachusetts a significant level of sustained patronage as a destination casino appears unlikely given the saturation of gaming venues in the New England and New York region.”

A casino in Schenectady would, of course, also face the saturation problem, and would be in direct competition with one located in downtown Springfield, which is about 100 miles away.

Posted by: David Giacalone | June 14, 2014

the fight is NOT over

   The approval, in a 5 – 2 vote by City Council last Monday, of the proposed casino in Schenectady does not end the fight of those who believe the future of Schenectady would be brighter and healthier without a casino. The NYS Gaming Facility Siting Board must still decide which of the 4 or 5 Applicants left after the June 30 final application filing deadline has the “best” proposal.  In choosing the casino licensee, the Siting Board will give 20% weight to the Local Support or Opposition for the application in the Host municipality and nearby communities.  Opponents now have the opportunity to show and explain their opposition to siting a casino at a particular location.  [update: See my letter to the editor in the Schenectady Gazette (Jun 19, 2014, C7) with a similar theme, "Still time to voice our opposition to casino" pdf.).] We opponents need to show the weakness in support for the Schenectady Casino Application and the solid bases behind their opposition.

follow-up (Aug. 9, 2014):  Despite majorities in their Towns and villages voting No to Proposition One in Nov. 2013, neither the Gazette Letter to the Editor mentioned above, nor email sent to the various town leaders, resulted in local legislative officials coming out in opposition to the casino. Instead, the Applicant’s list of local supporters includes:

  • Christopher Koetzle, Supervisor, Town of Glenville
  • Kris Kastberg, Mayor, Village of Scotia
  • Joe Landry, Supervisor, Town of Niskayuna

Similarly, Rep. Angelo Santabarbara and Rep. Phil Steck sent letters of support.  As did Rev. Bill Levering, Senior Pastor of 1st Reformed Church, in Stockade.

To our knowledge, each letter was sent without any chance for the relevant public (other than the often-interested local businessmen) to voice their opinion on the Schenectady proposal.

checkedboxs In the near future, the Siting Board will issue a statement outlining the procedures for the public to use in submitting materials to the Board. This webpage will supply that information as soon as it is available. Update: see our posting “Location Board schedules presentations and hearings” (Aug. 7, 2014)

   The Request for Applications to Develop or Operate a Gaming Facility in New York State [Adobe pdf. version] ["RFA"] sets out the criteria and procedures used in the selection process.  The following are sections of the RFA relevant to making the case for or against a casino:

[at 7] Initial Requirement of Local Support

“In weighing local support and opposition under this criteria, the Board will consider public statements and declarations, letters or resolutions from the Host Municipality, local governments, private organizations, community, religious and civic groups, charitable organizations entertainment venues, chambers of commerce, local businesses, labor organizations, etc.” (emphases added)

[at 22] Public Hearing

“The Board expects to convene public hearing in each Region to provide the Board with the opportunity to address question and concerns relative to the proposal of an applicant to build a Gaming Facility, including the scope and quality of the gaming area and amenities, the integration of the Gaming Facility into the Host Municipality and nearby municipalities and the extent of required mitigation plans and receive input from members of the public from an impacted community.

 “The Applicants for each Region and their agents and representatives are required to attend the public hearing(s) for that Region, may make a presentation and respond to questions of the Board or public comments as directed by the Board or the Board’s designee. Each Applicant must have at least one individual available who, bed on actual knowledge, is prepared to respond on behalf of the Applicant to such questions or public comments that can reasonably be anticipated in regard to the contents of its Application, including the scope and quality of the proposed gaming area and amenities, the integration of the proposed Gaming Facility into the Host Municipality and nearby municipalities and the extent or  required mitigation plans.”

[at 23] “Representatives of the Host Municipalities, representatives of nearby municipalities and representatives of any impacted live entertainment venue may attend the public hearing, may make presentations and may respond to questions as directed by the Board or the Board’s designee.  Others may attend the public hearing and may make a presentation at the discretion of the Board. Before the hearing, the Board will prescribe the manner in which it will receive comments from members of the public, and may take the opportunity during the hearing to read into the record any letters of support, opposition or concern from members of the public in the vicinity of the proposed Gaming Facility.”

On Friday, June 13, 2013, a staffer at the Racing Commission told me that the Siting Board should be beginning its Public Hearings “within the next couple of weeks.”  If that is true, groups and organization, and especially legislative bodies in nearby Towns and Villages, need to be organizing and preparing their statements.

Casino-Map-Feeman'sBridge

- above: Google Map showing site of the proposed Schenectady Casino at the old ALCO  plant at Freeman’s Bridge, with Glenville to the northwest and Niskayuna south and east; click on it to enlarge -

     I believe the opinion of nearby communities will be especially important to the Siting Board, and that leaders in Niskayuna and Glenville, which lie so close to the old ALCO site, must be prepared to act quickly to consider and pass resolutions.  As is shown elsewhere on the website. strong majorities in those two towns, as well as Duanesburg and Princetown voted No on the November 2013 ballot Proposal One, which authorized the placement of up to 5 casinos in the eastern part of Upstate New York, with another four due at the western end of the state in the near future.  Other than the Applicant, only representatives of the Host Municipality, “nearby municipalities”, and impacted live entertainment venues, have the right to make presentations to the Board’s public hearings.  All others are at the discretion of the Board.

Bethlehem Resolution: At the end of May, the Town Board of Bethlehem voted unanimously to oppose the then-proposed Exit 23 casino in Albany.  As reported in the Times Union on  on May 29, 2014:

“It is the sense of the Town Board of the town of Bethlehem that our community is opposed to the E-23 Casino Proposal, as well as to other casino proposals within the Capital Region,” the resolution passed by the board read. “We are concerned with the welfare of the entire community, the impact on citizens, and we question the long-term economic and fiscal benefit of such ventures. And we intend to reach out to other municipalities, including the city of Albany, and neighboring towns and cities, to see if they too would become involved in this public debate.”

Similar resolutions from Glenville, Niskayuna and other towns in the County might help convince the Siting Board that there are better choices than Schenectady for locating a casino.

logoclip_0

- we can prevail, as the citizens of Hamilton. Ontario did, in our fight to stop a proposed downtown casino -

Please leave a comment or email message, if you would like to help Stop the Schenectady Casino -

 

Posted by: David Giacalone | June 13, 2014

will a casino bring more crime?

Crime statistics about casinos are tricky and it is difficult to make broad statements about casinos and crime, because casinos are located in such diverse places and there are relatively few casinos in cities.  Nonetheless, it seems rather clear that urban casinos can expect an increase in certain kinds of crime, especially near the casino and along major arterial roads leading to it.  The potential is too great, we believe, for any nearby neighborhood to merely accept the risk and “wait and see”.  Once a casino complex is built, any increase in crime or perception of increased jeopardy on its streets will mean a reduction in the quality of life (and property values) for those living in its immediate vicinity.

SugarHouseEntryway follow-up: SugarHouse in Philadelphia: see our posting “did crime go up near the SugarHouse Casino?“, which discusses a study that some say demonstrates there was no significant increase in crime in the neighborhood of the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, which is operated by Rush Street Gaming.  Our analysis suggests, to the contrary, that those who live near a proposed urban casino should continue to be quite worried.  And see, thorough in its research, looking at existing studies and doing some of its own.  The Task Force Report was in favor of having upstate NY casinos, and found that “Casino gambling was accompanied by few significant or recurring crimes problems.” [217]  However, it distinguished between rural and urban locations, noting that the more rural a location, the less the probability of a significant increase in crime. “By contrast, the towns on the main routes to Atlantic City experienced spillover crime, which rose with proximity to the city.” [a t219] More generally, the Report continues:

  • “casinos in urban areas should be concerned with the potential for prostitution, panhandling, pick-pocketing and purse snatching. Urban casinos would be adversely affected by an unsafe urban environment, so that more resources would have to be devoted to maintain order and protect citizens from street crime.” [at 219]
  • “The frequency of theft, other property crime, and traffic-related offenses is likely to increase in and around a casino, with the extent of the increase largely dependent upon the opportunities presented by the location, historical crime patterns, and the daily visitor population.”

JailBird Furthermore, there were three notable exceptions to their finding that “Any growth in economically motivated crime is usually not accompanied by an upsurge in violent offenses in casino locales.” [at 218] Thus, “Researchers found greater increases in violent crime in localities most accessible to Atlantic City than in other communities in the region. Gulfport, Mississippi statistics show major increases in assaults (all levels), robberies and arson. And, while crime statistics are not available, Tunica County, Mississippi has experienced substantial increases in felony indictments and lower court filings since riverboat casinos began operating in 1992.”

Note: Atlantic City has a population of about 40,000 and Gulfport about 70,000, quite comparable in size to Schenectady’s 60,000.

The Report notes that the enormous increase in crime in Atlantic City from 1977-1980 (violent up 130%, non-violent up 176%), has been “misinterpreted”. The number of crimes may have gone up a lot, the Report says, but the increase in the number of persons in the City means “the risk of individualized victimization appears to have fallen slightly according to visitor-adjusted crime.”  I am not sure that is particularly re-assuring, especially to those who live or work near a casino, where the visitors are concentrated.

The Report adds that: “in sum, every factor that might affect opportunities for crime should be considered in casino planning.  The size of the facilities and overnight accommodations, hours of operation, types of games, age eligibility of patrons, availability of alcohol, and possible stake limits may affect the degree to which a casino causes crime in the community. The goal must be crime control.” [219]

NoloSharkS Problem Gambling and Crime: Another conclusion in the Task Force Report is: “With the advent of legalized casino gambling, pathological gamblers will likely commit additional income-generating crimes, though their prevalence and rate of criminal activity cannot be projected.” Thus, “Research indicates that there is a relationship between pathological gambling and economically motivated, non-violent offenses. Larceny, embezzlement, check forgery, loan fraud and tax evasion are thought to be the most common. . . . [I]f the number of compulsive gamblers grows with expanded availability and more convenient access to casino gambling, a corresponding increase in offending can be expected.”

Another study of interest is “The Effects of Casino Gambling on Crime”  (B. Stitt, D. Giacopassi, M. Nichols 1998), which was funded by a U.S. Justice Department grant and did a statistical analysis of 7 jurisdictions with fairly new casinos, comparing before and after crime stats.  It looked at both the official population of a city and the “at risk” population when visitors are added in.   Stitt et al concluded that there was a statistically significant increase in DUI, larceny/burglary, and family offenses in locations that established casinos in the 1990s. [at 16]  For me, the increase in family offenses is particularly telling, as it shows how the negative effects of gambling losses reach into the family of gamblers, as money for housing, food, clothing and children’s needs is spent at the casino.

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.