Posted by: David Giacalone | October 29, 2014

WSJ focuses on NY casinos and colleges

spotlights The Wall Street Journal shone a light on casinos near colleges in an article published Monday, October 26, 2014. “Casinos Put Up Hands for Sites Near Colleges“, by Steven Vilensky (subscription required).  The opening sentence warns that “Casino gambling may soon be added to the list of campus vices in New York, drawing anticipation from college students and concern from legislators and school officials.” Indeed, we’re told:

Nearly all of the 16 proposals currently being considered as New York state casino sites are within a 25-mile radius of a college or university. Three of the more-elaborate plans are located minutes from large schools.

Through dumb luck, I was able to pass through the WSJ subscription wall once and see more than the first three sentences. That was enough to read the entire article and conclude that (1) giving the college proximity issue national exposure is a very good thing; but, (2) reporter Vilensky needs a pedometer or a quick lesson in reading the legend on a map.  In telling of the proposed casino closest to a college, Vilensky says the Schenectady casino would beless than 3 miles from Union College and Schenectady County Community College.”  I’m not sure how he was led astray. He did talk with someone from Rush Street Gaming, and maybe he also saw the Galesi brochure for Mohawk Harbor, which proclaims it to be “in the heart of downtown Schenectady,” and he got confused.

Casino-VicinityMapE

Google Map showing proposed Schenectady casino, Union College and SCCC

Hoping to correct the true-but-misleading “less than 3 miles” figure in time for the morning hardcopy version, I wrote Vilenski late Sunday night, saying:  “The story is much more interesting and troublesome than you have presented in today’s WSJ article.”  Naturally, I let him know that Union College’s largest residence hall is one block from the proposed casino, and the entire campus is four or five blocks away, while Schenectady Community College is one mile from the proposed site, Mohawk Harbor. [click on the map above]

The WSJ article also reports on the phenomenon of colleges starting to offer degrees or certificates in Gaming Management and related fields.  It somehow missed the fact that Schenectady County Community College now has a casino management program as well as a partnering agreement with Rush Street Gaming.

Neither reporter Vilensky nor the WSJ Corrections staff added the proffered information to their online resources.  For anyone Googling the issue after reading the WSJ piece, here are postings from Stop the Schenectady Casino on young gamblers and college kids and casinos:

Posted by: David Giacalone | October 29, 2014

a tunnel cover-up at ALCO

controversial "utility tunnel" discovered at ALCO site in Schenectady

photo taken Aug. 8, 2014 at the ALCO plant by DEC remediation engineer John Strang, PE

 On Monday, October 20, 2014, I received a message through this website, asking me to investigate a rumor that the Applicant/Developer of the proposed Schenectady casino at the Old ALCO Plant site had discovered tunnels under the foundation of a building at the proposed casino location, and had asked the local media not to report on the discovery of the tunnels.  My subsequent investigation verified those two allegations, along with the fact that the Applicant never disclosed the existence of the tunnels to Metroplex, the Lead Agency in its SEQRA environmental review process, although they were discovered prior to the approval in August of the Draft Enviromenntal Impact Statement, and prior to the public comment period.

    Our attempt to delay the final approval of the environmental review by Metroplex at its October 22 board meeting was unsuccessful, with no public mention of tunnels, and with Metroplex chairman Ray Gillen insisting to me that there were no tunnels. Click here for our Memorandum to Metroplex about the ALCO tunnels, Oct. 22, 2014.

Last Monday (Oct. 27, 2014), on behalf of the Stop the Schenectady Casino group, Mohamed Hafez and I sent a Comment to the Gaming Facility Location Board setting out the results of my investigation, and stating the belief that the Undisclosed Tunnels Issue draws the integrity of the SEQRA review process into question, along with the credibility of the Applicant, and its appropriate regard for the importance of historic and archeological artifacts and their documentation.  These are further reasons, we argued, for the Location Board to reject the Schenectady casino Application.

The Comment to the Location Board contains full details.  Here are a few important points:

  • ALCOtunnel2 On October 20, I received an email reply from a Gazette reporter saying, “Yes there are tunnels and they are working to get rid of them. I was asked not to report on that fact.” [emphasis added] In a subsequent reply, she also wrote, “I did discuss it with my editors but we’re kind of limited if the developer won’t let us report on it or take photos.” Her attempt two days later to “clarify” away these statements were wholly unpersuasive.

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | October 2, 2014

Heritage Foundation asks Metroplex to protect the Stockade

The Schenectady Heritage Foundation [SHF] has submitted comments to the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority (Metroplex) concerning the Environmental Impact Statement that Metroplex is reviewing for the development of Mohawk Harbor.  Unlike the original draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement, the draft Supplemental EIS includes an amended development plan that takes into account the proposed Schenectady casino.  Dated September 21, 2014 the SHF Comment to Metroplex focuses on the “potential negative impacts on the preservation of the Stockade Historic District. These concerns are flooding, traffic and quality of life.”

The Foundation’s mission “is to foster historic preservation in Schenectady County.” Its concise and thoughtful letter makes three major points about preserving the important and unique Stockade Historic District:

  • “No aspect of the Development can be allowed to exacerbate flooding in the Stockade Historic District.”
  • “Traffic generated by the Development – with or without a casino – must be directed away from the residential Stockade Historic District.”
  • “The quality of life in the Stockade must be protected and improved for it to continue as a historic district, and for it to thrive as the City’s premier urban neighborhood.”

More specifically, the Comment asserts that:

Ever-increasing vehicular traffic over the centuries has taken a toll on the irreplaceable historic architecture in the Stockade. Volume, noise, fumes and vibrations already cause damage to the fragile plaster walls, leaded glass windows, original stone and brick work, and slate sidewalks in the historic district.

The Foundation Comment also states that increased traffic would reduce safety in the City’s “most walkable urban neighborhood”,  creating a safety hazard for pedestrians and limiting emergency vehicle access.  In addition, to help assure the quality of life in the Stockade,  the New Urbanism concepts endorsed by the City of Schenectady’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan should be “required in the Design of the Development.”

ALCO-SAMmastSk Note:  Point Two of our STATEMENT in OPPOSITION to the Schenectady Casino [at pages 3-8] explains why the risk of damage to the Stockade Historic District and its residential quality (mainly due to a likely increase in crime and a significant increase in traffic) is too great to allow a casino to be located nearby.  The Statement also addresses four other significant reasons to oppose the Schenectady Casino.

p.s. On another subject:  Click here to see the “tunnels”, also called pipe chases and utility corridors found under ALCO Building 332 while demolishing its foundation.

Posted by: David Giacalone | October 1, 2014

press release from the Schenectady Faith Community

Below is a Press Release, dated September 30 2014, telling of a campaign among various faith congregations in Schenectady to make their opposition known to the proposed Schenectady casino. [click for a printable, pdf. version of the Press Release]  You are encouraged to bring the campaign to your own congregation. The campaign packet includes the following documents to aid in writing the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       September 30, 2014

Churches Conduct Letter Writing Campaign Against the Schenectady Casino

Members of two Schenectady area congregations today turned over 43 names of individuals signing either letters or petitions to the NYS Gaming Commission Gaming Commission Facility Location Board indicated opposition to the application by Rush Street Gaming for the license in Schenectady. Others took materials and will separately be sending in letters.

The letter submitted summarizes 7 reasons in opposition: that the site could and is being well developed without a casino; it directly threatens the Stockade neighborhood; affects the welfare of a college close by; the location has more disadvantages than advantages; the local support is less significant than it claims; there was no legal public hearing; and concern about Rush Street Gaming supporting “bridging the gap’ with youth between online applications and casino gambling.

Of major concern is that “Rush Street Gaming invests in Ruby Seven Studios, which develops, markets, and distributes casino games such as slots and poker through social network and smart phone ‘app’ websites with terms of service that expressly allow children as young as 13 to play without any age or identity verification.”

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 28, 2014

if you think “no”, say so

just-say-no-001 The Casino Facility Location Board will consider comments received from the public about casino applications at any time during its review process.  And, it’s easy to let them know how you feel.  So, why not put fingers to your keyboard or pen to paper and voice your opinion on an issue that will affect Schenectady for decades to come.  But, do so soon, as the Board may choose the winner of the Capital Regional gaming license before the end of October.

Email and Letters can be sent to Gail P. Thorpe: Email address: info@gaming.ny.gov

USPS address: NYS Gaming Commission, Contracts Office, One Broadway Center, Schenectady, NY 12301-7500

just-say-no-002 Click for our  One-Page Guide to Writing a Letter Opposing the Schenectady Casino (Sept. 28, 2014)

For a full discussion, see our STATEMENT in OPPOSITION. just-say-no-003

- and our Issues Page for particular topics -

.

just-say-no p.s. Why Bother? There were so few speakers in opposition to the Schenectady Casino at the Public Comment Event on September 22, that we fear the Location Board may believe there really is no significant opposition.  The Schenectady Gazette didn’t even bother to mention there were any opponents at the Event.  We’d like to think that our Statement in Opposition will be studied and given all due consideration by the Board as it stands, but more letters in opposition will make the arguments in the Statement more meaningful and powerful.

 

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 23, 2014

Bravo and Best Wishes to Howe Caverns Casino!

 The folks from Howe Caverns Casino and Resort did a great job before the Location Board and the media yesterday at the Capital Region public comment event. Chris Churchill at the Times Union said “if you had to pick a winner based solely on Monday’s hearing, you’d go with Howe Caverns.”

The TU’s Jim Odato reported that:

[Location Board Chair Kevin Law] told the crowd during a day of 145 speakers and 11 hours of testimony that “we have no doubt that Schoharie County wants a casino,” drawing hurrahs from the crowd of Howes Cave backers.

media attention for the Howe CAverns casino at the Location Board event - 09/22/2014

the yellow shirts got a lot of attention

Haley Viccaro at the Schenectady Gazette even wrote a separate article during the hearing yesterday that had the headline “Proposed Howe Caverns casino has most local support.”

Many of us at Stop the Schenectady Casino don’t think New York State should be in the business of using casinos as engines of economic growth and revenue generation.  But, if there’s going to be a casino license granted in the Capital Region, it is clear to us that Howe Caverns is the best choice:

  • the people as a whole [no hole pun intended] sincerely and fervently seem to want this casino, unlike places where there is — at the very least — a  large portion of the population strongly against one
  • the bang for the development buck is very much likely to be biggest in Schoharie County
  • its location should mitigate against many of the social problems we believe are especially dangerous when you place a casino at an urban location
  • we can actually imagine it as a “destination casino”

yinyang Yes, we think our  STATEMENT in OPPOSITION to the Schenectady Casino does a good job of explaining why Schenectady should not be chosen.  But, we also believe that the good people of Howe Caverns and Schoharie County have done Schenectady a very good deed by making such a strong case that they be selected.  So, Bravo!, Best Wishes and Big Thanks to the Howe Caverns Casino and Resort.  We like your odds.

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 23, 2014

poor-mouthing Schenectady won’t work

emptyPockets Hats in hand and tin cups raised, Schenectady’s leaders did not exactly do us proud at yesterday’s Public Comment Event.  As we’ve said before, Schenectady’s economic and financial plight is simply not desperate enough for the City to take the Casino Gamble with its future, its social fabric, its reputation, and its soul.  Casino supporters might like to call casino opponents “nay-sayers,” but we seem to have a lot more faith in Schenectady’s revival than they do.  Of course, when running for election, these same leaders trip over their own tongues telling us how successful they have been reviving and transforming Schenectady.

Giving Rush Street Gaming and The Galesi Group the gaming license will not meet the development and job-creation goals of the Upstate New York State gaming law. The first Point in our  Statement in Opposition to the Schenectady Casino explains why.

POINT ONE. Unlike the other Capital Region locations proposed to the Board, the Schenectady Casino is the only Location Well on its Way to Being Fully Developed without a Casino, and Schenectady already has a Vibrant and Successful Development Process.

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 23, 2014

Union College and the Schenectady Casino

Here’s what we said about locating the proposed Schenectady Casino so close to Union College in our  OUR STATEMENT in OPPOSITION to the Schenectady Casino, submitted on Sept. 22 to the Location Board at its Capital Region Public Comment Event:

NoloSharkS The Schenectady Casino is the only proposed location and Applicant that directly threaten the welfare of a student body of potential young gamblers living no more than a few blocks away.

Schenectady’s Stop Group believes that placing a casino facility at Mohawk Harbor, in such close proximity to the residence halls and other residential housing of Union College, and less than a mile from Schenectady County Community College, unnecessarily endangers the welfare of many young gamblers and potential gamblers. No other competing application poses a similar risk to young adults of gambling age by making access so easy and quick.

As can be seen in Attachment 1 and Attachment 6, Mohawk Harbor’s casino facility, located at 450 Nott Street, is a short stroll from virtually all of Union College’s student housing, and only one short block from its largest residence hall at 301 Nott Street.

There is a significant amount of literature and scholarship on college students and gambling, including the increased susceptibility of younger gamblers, alcohol’s connection to problem gambling, and the connection between proximity and increased gambling.[1] The Handout on Problem Gambling from Union College’s Wicker Wellness Center, notes, ”Gambling is in some ways a ‘norm’ among college students.  The most popular games are casino activities such as cards and gambling machines.”

SmallShark The risk is heightened because Rush Street Gaming is experienced in marketing to the Young Gambler and appears to be most desirous of gaining their trade.  For example, Rush Street Gaming’s SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia has introduced a “simplified craps game” called Props & Hops (purportedly alluding to craps terminology), which was developed because “A lot of people, especially the younger kids, are intimidated about craps.”[2] They have also greatly increased the number of poker tables at SugarHouse, a game particularly popular with college students. Their Schenectady Application shows that the Schenectady casino will have a dozen poker tables in a 3000 sq. ft. hall.

Perhaps more worrisome is a recent Report stating that 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.

In its study “Betting on Kids Online,” the hospitality workers union UniteHere argues that 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.

If Rush Street thinks it is worthwhile to groom adolescents into future casino customers, what will Rush Street Gaming do to prepare 18, 19 and 20 year olds down the block who already love poker and “keggers”?

Rush Street’s denial in its Application that proximity and access increase the prevalence of problem gambling also suggests that they need a significant amount of sensitivity training before being allowed to operate near so many potential young gamblers. It is ludicrous for the Applicant to brush off worries about creating more problem gamblers, saying, “the addition of gaming at the Rivers Casino is not expected to lead to an increase in the prevalence rates in the local area”, because people in this area have already been able to travel for slots in Saratoga and casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut. Other things being equal, we hope this Board will choose to locate the Capital Region casino farther than a short stroll away from a couple thousand potential young gamblers.

[1] For example, see “Festering Beneath the Surface: Gambling and College Students, by the Illinois Dept. of Health Services; “College Problem Gambling Literature Review“, Jim Emshoff, Ph.D., Georgia State University (Jan. 2008).

[Go to the Young Gamblers listing on our ISSUES page for an extensive list of related resources.]

[2] See SugarHouse Press Release, April 30, 2014; and “Sugarhouse Develops a New, Simplified Craps Game For Younger Players“, CBS6 Philadelphia, May 1, 2014; SugarHouse Props & Hops Brochure.

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- red check  click here for a summary of our major reasons for opposing the Schenectady Casino -

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 21, 2014

five major reasons for opposing the Schenectady Casino

noALCOlogo On Monday,   September 22, 2014, two representatives of Stop the Schenectady Casino spoke before the casino Location Board at the Capital Region Public Comment Event. Mohamed Hafez made a rousing presentation of why a casino would harm the people and City of Schenectady, from the perspective of a landlord and businessman and of a resident trying to make a better Schenectady.

In addition, our Statement in Opposition to the Schenectady Casino was submitted to the Location Board at the September 22 Event.

- Use this short URL to share this posting: http://tinyurl.com/NotSchdy

just say no . . Click here for  OUR STATEMENT in OPPOSITION to the Schenectady Casino .. It has 20 pages explaining each of the five points below, as outlined in our Cover Letter to the Location Board and as illustrated with the following 12 Attachments:

  •  #1: a Map of the Vicinity  . Casino-VicinityMapE
  •  #2: Jean Zegger’s one-page history of our Unique Stockade
  •  #3 & #4: two collages showing the beauty and community spirit of the Stockade Neighborhood:

StockadeFlagCollage . . . Casino-LawrenceCollage

  • #5: the Applicant’s Traffic Access Plan targeting Front Street ..
    • Casino-AccessDetail

.. #6:

casino-dormCollage . . . a collage showing just how close a Union College dorm is to the casino

  • #7: Rev. Baron’s Show of Hands . . . .
  • casino-SchdyCo.VoteNov2013BW  #8: a spread sheet showing the Schenectady County Election Results on Proposition One

. . #9 & #10: statements from our religious community condemning the process used by the Schenectady City Council and the opposing the casino

  •  FrontStDriveCollage .  . . #11: a trip down Front Street showing the threat of traffic gridlock and other problems caused by casino traffic

. . #12: a sample of our Petition Opposing the Casino, which we are submitting today with 363 signatures, 125 of them by people living in the Stockade Historic District .

OUR FIVE MAIN POINTS for OPPOSING the SCHENECTADY CASINO (explained in our Statement of Sept. 22, 2014:):

  1. Unlike the other Capital Region locations proposed to the Board, the Schenectady Casino is the only Location Well on its Way to Being Fully Developed without a Casino, and Schenectady already has a Vibrant and Successful Development Process.
  1. The Schenectady Casino is the only proposal that directly threatens the welfare of a treasured Historic District – the Schenectady Stockade Historic District
  1. The Schenectady Casino is the only proposed location and Applicant that directly threaten the welfare of a full campus of potential young gamblers living no more than a few blocks away.
  1. Mohawk Harbor’s Urban Location has More Disadvantages than Advantages – e.g., increased probability of social ills due to problem gambling, more crime, more regressive tax structure.
  1. The Applicant’s Local Support is Less Significant than It Claims and Weaker than in Competing Communities

dontforgettack  Capital Region Casino public hearing – “Public Comment Event”
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Holiday Inn, Stonehenge Room A & D, 205 Wolf Road, Colonie
IN-PERSON: Seating is first-come, first-served. Pre-registered speakers should arrive 15 minutes before scheduled time to check-in. Walk-in speakers can register on-site on a first-come, first-served basis.

ONLINE: The full hearing will be streamed live and archived on the Gaming Commission’s website at www.gaming.ny.gov.

Written comments : May be submitted at the event or by email to CapitalRegion@gaming.ny.gov up to seven days after the hearing (September 29, 2014), to be part of the hearing record.  NOTE: Comments received after Sept. 29 will also be considered by the Board as part of its RFA review process.

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 (August 21).  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 October 1, 2014:

If you have not done so already, we urge you to let the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board know that you are opposed to having a casino in Schenectady. As part of its casino application review process, the Board will consider all comments, no matter when they are received. Because the Board may make its decision by the end of October, comments should be sent as soon as possible.

Email and Letters can be sent to Gail P. Thorpe: Email address: info@gaming.ny.gov

USPS address: NYS Gaming Commission, Contracts Office, One Broadway Center, Schenectady, NY 12301-7500.

   We believe that the promised benefits claimed for the casino are exaggerated and uncertain, and may be of short duration, as more and more casinos are constructed. Any benefits are clearly outweighed by the negative results that are likely to occur in our community. Moreover, basing the Government’s fiscal policy on casino revenues is inappropriate, as it will unfairly take money from the poor and most vulnerable, and their families.

In addition, Schenectady is not so desperate for development that it should gamble with a casino strategy for economic growth. For years, our leaders have taken credit for revitalizing the City, with many new jobs and businesses, and over $830 million in investment since 2004. Moreover, the Galesi Group says it will develop Mohawk Harbor, and remediate the brownfields, with or without a casino — an investment of $200 million, the biggest in the City’s history. Our proud reputation for manufacturing and technology should not be cashed in for the image of a small-time casino town.

Here are some of reasons that members of Stop the Schenectady Casino have for our opposition to having a casino operated at Mohawk Harbor (the old ALCO plant site) by Rush Street Gambling:

  • Injury to local businesses due to the casino taking a large portion of dollars consumers in this area would spend on leisure and entertainment, with most visitors coming from less than 50 miles, causing business bankruptcies, staff reductions, closings. The amenities at the casino will keep day-trippers on the casino lot, not out spreading their wealth across the community.
  • 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;
  • More problem gambling, and gambling by the elderly and the very poor, with a casino close-by and open 24/7, bringing much stress and injury to families as well as the entire community.
  • A serious threat to the Stockade Neighborhood’s residential nature, despite its legal protection as a historic district, with more crime and traffic, due to having a casino only a few blocks away.
  • Danger for Young Gamblers, with the Union College campus within half of a mile, and its biggest dorm one block away. Studies show that younger gamblers are more vulnerable to becoming problem gamblers, especially if they drink heavily, have easy access to a casino, and have friends who gamble. Rush Street Gambling’s experience marketing to potential young gamblers makes the location particularly worrisome.

For more information, discussion, photos, links to reference material, and more, browse this website.

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?
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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)
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(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.
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(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?”.
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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.]
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(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.
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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.]
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What other claims has Rush Street Gaming been making that have no basis in fact?
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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.
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to: HistoricStockade@yahoogroups.con
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 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.” (Bergman Traffic Report, Table ES-2) (“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.”

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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

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

  • landscape

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  •   Access Plan: Casino-AccessPlan

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  •  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.

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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.

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