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.”
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).