I’ve heard, over and over, that the Letter to the Editor published in the Gazette by Mohamed Hafez on June 1st is the best short summary yet of the problems we fear are likely to come with a casino in Schenectady. So, I was pleased this morning to find an email from Mr. Hafez submitting his letter, with a few new thoughts, to “stop the schenectady casino.” It’s a reprise definitely worth republshing and rereading.
Letter to the Editor and the Schenectady Community:
June 6, 2014
Our anti-casino fight is too important to give up simply because some think a Yes vote by the Schenectady City Council is inevitable. I have not given up hope that good sense and good leadership will bring Mr. Erikson, Mr. Mootooveren and Ms. Porterfield to join with Councilmen Vince Riggi and create a majority against the proposed casino.
A year ago, the Toronto City Council voted 40 to 4 against the downtown riverfront mega casino proposal. It wasn’t a difficult vote for the councilors because they debated the issue for a year, engaged local economists at the University of Toronto that provided several studies on the impacts of a local casino on their city and the health and wellbeing of individuals.
They all concluded that a local Casino makes a poor economic sense, is a poor use of precious downtown land, with no evidence that it will attract tourist dollars. In addition, a casino would have a devastating impact on local restaurants, bars, hotels and theater. A casino would have serious negative social impacts including problem gambling, bankruptcies, crime, traffic gridlock and parking problems. Furthermore, gambling is morally wrong and preys on the poor, the unsophisticated and the addict.
Residents signed 22,000 petitions opposing the casino proposal, enlisted business owners and faith leaders, discussed the issue on social media, collected donations and placed 3000 lawn signs throughout the city.
A local economist stated that gambling is one of the least productive economic activities imaginable — removing money from one set of pockets and putting it in another, without producing anything concrete as part of the exchange. He also said that statistics concerning casinos throughout the United States show that after three to five years, almost two jobs are lost for every one that’s created. Most places that introduce gambling see a quick upward spike, followed by a steep decline.
Unlike Las Vegas, most casino-goers are locals, and their gambling money would otherwise be spent on other options in the city. No serious tourist dollars will be generated, it would be the locals who spend their hard eared money and social security checks.
There is no evidence that our “leaders” have done their homework or looked behind the promises and puffery of the casino developers. Nor is there evidence that a riverfront casino would make good economic sense, promote tourism in Schenectady, or result in an assured stream of new tax revenue. Without such evidence, the Schenectady City Council should not be taking the risk that a casino will bring with it the predictable downsides, destroying local businesses and the social fabric of our city.
Tell the Schenectady City Council to Vote No on the proposed Casino. Then, if we need to go further, let’s prepare to show the Gaming Facility Siting Board that there is significant opposition in Schenectady and surrounding communities and, if there must be a Capital Region casino, that other locations are better choices or, at the least, likely to cause less damage.