a good start for Problem Gambling Awareness Month 2017

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  • update: The first community forum presentation on problem gambling of the NYS Responsible Play Partnership will be held Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at Elston Hall, at Schenectady County Community College, at 5 PM. It is free and open to the public. Please be there to show your support for not only more problem gambling treatment resources, but also for education and outreach resources to help deter problem gambling from ever getting to the stage where professional intervention is needed.

One year ago, we posted “Will problem gambling awareness month inspire action?” (March 2, 2016), posing the question: What are our public health officials and other local political and community leaders doing to combat problem gambling?

That 2016 Awareness Month post argued that:

[O]nly organized programs specifically focused on problem gambling prevention, education, and treatment, with ongoing outreach activities, can hope to address the effects that a casino in Schenectady is likely to have on our community. With Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor now scheduled to open in a year, such programs are needed ASAP and must especially target vulnerable groups, such as aging adults, low-income residents, and youth. [To see the full post, with its discussion, links, etc., click this short URL: http://tinyurl.com/ProbGambSchdy]

Education-Prevention Trumps Treatment. Our hope was that community education and prevention activities might be in operation prior to the Casino’s opening, in order to help inoculate the population of Schenectady against the anticipated tsunami of publicity for the Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, with its resulting Casino Fever.  As expected, in addition to the Casino’s own advertising and promotions, publicity for the Casino has included government and media cheerleading, as casino “gaming” is promoted as a normal, glamorous, and even civic-spirited activity. Our goal was, and is, not to urge the general public to avoid or boycott the Casino, but instead to help create an informed attitude toward casino gambling that places it into the low-risk category of casual entertainment and recreation, rather than an acceptable high-risk habit leading down the path of problem, disordered, or pathological gambling.  Unfortunately, in the past year, our local government leaders have not stepped forward to put Problem Gambling Awareness [“PGA”] programs into place in time to inoculate our community from casino fever.

nyrpplogoNonetheless, rather than point fingers or speculate on motives, I am happy to say there has been important activity at the State level that promises to bring significant PGA information to Schenectady, as well as other New York communities “hosting” casino, racino and similar “gaming” facilities. Those activities were announced in an email sent on February 28, 2017, by New York’s Responsible Play Partnership [formed in 2013], recognizing March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month. The text of the email can be found at the bottom of this posting. [See “What state’s doing to help you gamble responsiblyNew Yorkers can now ban themselves from facilities” (Schenectady Daily Gazette, by Brett Samuels, March 1, 2017)] The full text of the email can be found at the end of this posting.

probgam-pg2016-1920x1080-banners_nat_final . .  click on this thumbnail for the full Awareness Month poster:

The opening paragraphs of the NYRPP announcement, states:

New York’s Responsible Play Partnership (RPP) – consisting of the New York State Gaming Commission, the New York State Office on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the New York Council on Problem Gambling – today announced a series of initiatives in recognition of March as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

The Commission also launched its statewide self-exclusion program … [which] allows problem gamblers to ban themselves from all casinos operating in New York State

The RPP’s plans for March include visiting newly opened casinos to review the operators’ efforts to promote responsible gaming practices, followed by public meetings in the communities hosting the casinos to educate the public on the resources available for those who need help.

hopeline-text-square-purple-300x300 The RPP will also foster awareness through a focused social media campaign, conversation-driving signage at all gaming facilities across the State and development of a new public service announcement reminding New Yorkers that the OASAS HOPELINE (1-877-8HOPE-NY/TEXT HOPENY) exists to address all forms of addiction – including gambling. Finally, for the first time ever, the New York Lottery will feature responsible gaming messaging as part of its daily televised drawings.

  • Dates, times and locations for the public meetings will be announced in the near future. The Gazette reported, “A meeting is expected to be held in Schenectady in late March, though official details have not yet been announced.” We will list the information about the Schenectady meeting(s) when available.
  • LagoLogoB&W According to the Gazette, “Mary Cheeks, general manager at Schenectady’s Rivers Casino & Resort, previously said the business’ policies to promote responsible gaming include employee education and training, self-exclusion policies and listing the state’s addiction help hotline on advertisements and social media posts.” We believe that Rivers Casino, like del Lago in Tyre (which is paying for their County to hire two problem gambling counselors, or for treatment and one for prevention), should do much more to help the community learn about problem gambling. The Racing Commission has noted that fees and tax revenues (such as the annual fee on each slot machine) should not be counted as the casino fulfilling its obligation to mitigate such issues in its host community.

Statewide Self-Exclusion. RPP’s Awareness Month email (text below) stresses the new statewide nature of its Self-exclusion program, noting it is “the broadest self-exclusion program in the nation”, and stating:

The statewide policy closes a decades-old regulatory loophole in New York that made it possible for video lottery and casino patrons to voluntarily ban themselves from one gaming property only to continue playing at a neighboring facility unabated.

crimescene-casino The wisdom of a statewide ban is not obvious, and this site will delve further into the notion of a gambler being forced to self-exclude from every facility in the state. Will such a ban discourage many persons from entering the self-exclusion program, which in fact subjects the signer to criminal charges for entering the forbidden facilities regulated by the Racing Commission?  For a large portion of at-risk gamblers, it is proximity that creates their biggest danger. Why wouldn’t a geographic ban within a reasonable radius of the signer’s primary casino be effective? Why make it impossible for the signer, for example, to vacation with family or friends anywhere in the State and spend one evening at a casino? Would’t signing become an embarrassing stigma?

probgam-pgam2017toolkitlogoHave the Conversation.  A very important part of RPP’s Problem Gambling Awareness Month program for 2017 is its request that every New Yorker have a problem gambling conversation with at least one person in March. We will have much more to say on the Have the Conversation project, but for now please note that the New York Problem Gambling Council has put together a very useful Toolkit, with helpful one-page Action Sheets for Youth, Parents, Senior Citizen Caregivers, School Personnel, and School Administrators.  Click on the Toolkit logo to the right of this paragraph, or go to http://tinyurl.com/HTCtoolkit, to see and download the Have the Conversation Toolkit.

After a year of disappointment over the lack of public programs in Schenectady County relating to prevention, education and treatment for Problem Gambling, I am looking forward to see the RPP’s programs in action and resources in wide circulation.

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The email message explaining NY Responsible Play Partnership’s efforts this month to increase Problem Gambling Awareness is immediately below.

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the Gazette takes problem gambling more seriously

After long silence on the topic, I am pleased to say that the Schenectady Gazette has devoted significant space to the issue of casino-related problem gambling this week, in preparation for today’s Grand Opening of Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor. Here are excerpts from three articles:

sfoss In her opinion piece “More resources needed for problem gambling: Lack of services in Schenectady seems like serious omission” (Feb. 5, 2017), Gazette columnist Sara Foss raised important issues for our community. 

  • “There’s years of documentation and research showing that within 50 miles of a casino you see dramatic rises in problem gambling,” explained Philip Rainer, who serves as chief clinical officer at Capital Counseling, the non-profit agency that runs for the Center for Problem Gambling.

    Rainer and Hill are certain the Capital Region will see an uptick in gambling addiction due to the new casino. They are also certain that resisting the urge to gamble there will be a challenge for their clients, who have been talking about Rivers Casino & Resort for months.

  • Given the fact that a casino is about to open in our own backyard, the lack of gambling services in Schenectady seems like a serious omission.

    nycpgjaimecostello “Ease of access increases problems,” Jaime Costello, director of prevention, training and special programs for NYCPG, said. “More programs are definitely needed. It would help if gambling services were available in every community.”

  • It would be nice to think that Hill, Rainer and other experts in problem gambling are wrong – that the casino won’t lead to an increase in problem gambling and other social ills. But I suspect that they’re right, and that within the year we’ll have a better understanding of the casino’s downsides.

    One of those downsides is sure to be an increase in problem gambling, and we need more resources for the people who can’t control themselves when they step onto the gaming floor.

An article dated February 7, 2017 reports on a Siena College poll with findings on the attitudes of Capital Region residents toward the Rivers Casino. (“Poll: Residents have mixed feelings on casino impacts“, by Brett Samuels, Daily Gazette.) Polling was conducted Jan. 8-11, and the poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. The poll found that over 50 percent of people plan to visit the casino. Click here for the Siena College Research Institute Press Release. As for problem gambling:

While many see the casino as a positive economically, 55 percent believe the new casinos will cause increases in problem gambling and crime. The majority of respondents said problem gambling is a disease, but only 11 percent said they are aware of treatment services in their area.

 “The survey results support our view that both raising awareness of problem gambling and providing resources for problem gamblers and their families is crucial as new casinos open,” Jim Maney, executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, said in a statement.

Also, in “Concerns over Rivers Casino persist for some ahead of opening day” (by Brett Samuels, Feb. 5, 2017), the discussion also focuses on the likelihood of an increase in problem gambling (which Rush Street has denied will happen here), including extended remarks by Jim Maney, Executive Director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling:

Aside from city finances, there’s the matter of personal finances. The most recent federal study on gambling shows problem gambling roughly doubles within a 50-mile radius of a new casino. Experts consider proximity and opportunity the biggest contributors to a gambling habit.   

 

Prior to Rivers, the nearest full casino to Schenectady was Turning Stone Resort and Casino, located almost 100 miles west in the town of Verona, although there is also the racino in Saratoga Springs, which has numerous gambling options, though not as many as either Turning Stone or Rivers.

nycpgjimmaney “If someone had to go to Turning Stone but could only go once a week because it was too far, now you can go every day. You can go after work, you can go between errands,” said Jim Maney, executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling.

 

The biggest warning signs of a possible addiction include making more frequent trips to a casino and betting higher amounts, or lying about the frequency of those visits, Maney said.

 

Consequences of problem gambling can surface in different ways, he said. For some, it might be reflected in unpaid bills or a dependency on social services. For others, it might lead to stress and additional doctor’s visits.

 

While problem gambling affects a small percentage of the population, Maney said it’s an issue that can affect an entire family if bills go unpaid and money dries up. The best way to seek treatment is to call the state’s help line, he said.

pgposterdetail For much more on the need for problem gambling education and prevention programs in our community, see our posting last March, during Problem Gambling Awareness month. Of course, we need action — real programs backed with committed resources — not just words. Let’s see who comes forward to make it happen.

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update: The first community forum presentation on problem gambling of the NYS Responsible Play Partnership will be held Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at Elston Hall, at Schenectady County Community College, at 5 PM. It is free and open to the public. Please be there to show your support for not only more problem gambling treatment resources, but also for education and outreach resources to help deter problem gambling from ever getting to the stage where professional intervention is needed.

“Rush Street” is simply the wrong name

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not in Schenectady!

rushpwdbottle-001 . . . . . follow-up (March 29, 2016): see “what comes after a rush?“. The City Council voted last night, and let’s just say “the fix is on” at Mohawk Harbor.

original posting:

 Rush Street Gaming, owner of the Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, wants to name the main entry road being constructed in Mohawk Harbor “Rush Street.” Tomorrow, Monday, March 14, the Schenectady City Council is holding a public hearing on the naming of the three planned streets in Mohawk Harbor, at 7 PM in Room 209 of City Hall. [See, e.g., “Rush Street Gaming CEO defends road-name proposal” (Daily Gazette, by Haley Viccaro, Feb. 22, 2016); “Path to honor industrial past” (Times Union, by Paul Nelson, March 7, 2016).] According to the Gazette article “Opinions mixed over street names“:

RushStreetSignXXX The proposed streets are Rush Street, which is an extension of Nott Street off the roundabout entering the site. Off of Rush Street to the right is the proposed Harborside Drive, which runs parallel to Erie Boulevard. Off Harborside Drive to the right is the proposed Mohawk Harbor Way, which is an extension of Maxon Road.

Although she has no problem with the name Rush Street, City Council President Leesa Perazzo proposed holding a non-mandatory public hearing on the street name resolution, to seek the public’s input, and the Council unanimously concurred. Perazzo acceded to the opposition of council members Marion Porterfield (Dem.) and Vince Riggi (Ind.), who expressed concerns about having a street named after the casino operator, and refused to vote the resolution out of the Public Services and Utilities Committee.

update (March 15, 2016): The Gazette reported late last night that “Mohawk Harbor street names draw few foes: Schenectady business leaders back choices; three residents voice opposition“, by Haley Vicarro; and the Times Union‘s Paul Nelson wrote, “Council asked to approve street names: Developer says Rush Street is appropriate despite objections“, by Paul Nelson (March 14, 2016). Rush Street Gaming and Galesi Group proved again that they can pull the strings on our political and business leaders to get them to show up anywhere/anytime, say virtually anything, and even embrace a name they never would have dreamed up on their own. County leaders demonstrated both (1) that they had rushed last week to announce their naming the bike trail in honor of ALCO to give Rush Street cover for their eponymous street name; and (2) their continued disdain for the majority of County voters who said “No” in November 2013 to Proposition One and having commercial casinos anywhere in Upstate New York. [Click here for my written submitted Comments opposing the name Rush Street]

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ALCOlogoY Below, I offer several reasons why “Rush Street” is an inappropriate name at Schenectady’s Casino Compound. First, though, I acknowledge that there are many other suitable names for the roadways in Mohawk Harbor. My personal preference is that this piece of our City and its history, which for generations was the location of the American Locomotive Company’s headquarters and primary manufacturing operations, and which for the past few decades has been called the Old ALCO site, be commemorated for its role in Schenectady’s proud history of Hauling the World and strenuously contributing to our nation’s war efforts. That can and should be done by paying tribute to ALCO and its workforce in the street name of the roadway used to enter the casino compound at Mohawk Harbor, and perhaps the two other streets. [Click here for a brief history of ALCO, and here for a nostalgic image of the ALCO works; and see the Gazette Editorial. “Honor Alco’s history in Mohawk Harbor street names” (Feb. 18, 2016.)]

ALCOlogo

AMERICAN LOCOMOTIVE Drive

I’d like to suggest that the words “American Locomotive” be used in the street name, whether it is dubbed a street, avenue, boulevard, or lane.  In addition to paying tribute to the site’s past, the name American Locomotive, or similar words, will suggest that Mohawk Harbor and its Casino can be an Engine for Economic Growth in Schenectady, without suggesting that Schenectady should be or somehow already is proud of the City’s role in the Gaming Industry and related businesses. For myself, and many other people in our City and County, the existence of a casino in Schenectady may be seen as potentially good for employment and our tax revenues. It is not, however, a matter of civic “pride”. A casino does not and will not invoke for the City a feeling of satisfaction or pleasure taken from its achievements, nor a feeling of dignity, value or self-respect. Even if well run by a committed workforce (with their own personal pride in a job well done), and if enjoyed by customers for its entertainment value, it is merely a part of the leisure industry. A casino will “produce” entertainment for some, riches for a very few (mostly living elsewhere), but nothing that speaks of greatness and of a community’s special skills and dedication. And, although denied by its cheerleaders, a casino has the potential to have a significant negative impact on many aspects of the life of our community and its families.

I am proud of Schenectady’s connection to ALCO (and to GE), but I will never be proud of our City’s connection to the Gaming Industry, or to Rush Street Gaming. Honoring our past with a name like American Locomotive Drive — or simply the powerful “Locomotive Drive” — would be an important reminder to our residents and visitors of our proud and productive past, and of our faith in a future beyond the narrow scope of the gaming industry.

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What’s wrong with the name Rush Street?

  1.  RushStreetPostCard-001Name it after Rush Street in Chicago? No, thanks.  With yet another hard-to-believe explanation aimed at our City Council, Rush Street Gaming CEO Greg Carlin says they are not naming the street after themselves, but are instead hoping to invoke the energy and aura of Rush Street Chicago.  His letter to the Council says, “Rush Street in Chicago is a renowned entertainment destination. It sits just one block west of the ‘Magnificent Mile,’ an internationally known shopping district. Some of the finest dining and nightlife options in the city of Chicago are on Rush Street. I can tell you the atmosphere on this mile-long thoroughfare is electric. We want to bring that same excitement and success to the Electric City.” Indeed, according to Wikipedia, Rush Street Chicago “continues to be part of one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country and has businesses that correspond to the demands of its residents. The neighborhood hosts highly rated restaurants, five-star hotels, four-star spas, an elite senior citizen residence and prominent bars.” From my perspective, there are at least two big problems with invoking Rush Street Chicago:
    1. The vast majority of people considering or actually coming to Mohawk Harbor do not have the slightest idea what Rush Street Chicago is. That name is highly unlikely to draw any significant numbers of people from our very local/regional geographic market. If Rush Street Gaming truly wanted to make Rivers Casino in Schenectady a world-class entertainment destination, it would not have given us a casino designed to look like an outdated shopping mall (while proposing imposing casinos elsewhere), and it would not be requesting a pylon sign so huge and homely that it would never be permitted within several miles of Chicago’s Rush Street.
    2. WallStreetCompare

      our Wall Street analogy

      Those who do know what Rush Street in Chicago is like, can only be disappointed, and maybe even insulted, by the comparison once they arrive at Schenectady’s version.  Councilman VInce Riggi is correct to say that it is pretentious of Rush Street to name the street after itself, but it is probably even more pretentious to suggest their investment here will produce results comparable to even a tiny part of Chicago’s Rush Street. It is not too farfetched or cynical to predict, especially given the physical limitations of the site, that Schenectady’s Rush Street will be to Chicago’s Rush Street as our Wall Street is to Manhattan’s Wall Street. (see collage to the Right, and click on it for a larger verison)

  2.  Benjamin_Rush_Painting_by_Peale Name it after Benjamin Rush? Please, no, for his sake and ours. Rush Street in Chicago is named after Dr. Benjamin Rush [1746-1813], a physician who signed the Declaration of Independence, is called a Founding Father, was a leader of the American Enlightenment, perhaps the most prominent physician in the nation at the time, and wrote the first book in America on psychiatry. He was also a well-known abolitionist. Of course, it makes little sense to name an important thoroughfare in Schenectady after a man who has no local ties. More important, however, before doing so, we should consider, among other peculiarities, that:
    1. Ironically, Dr. Rush was a prominent advocate for temperance. He fought to include bans on “gaming, drunkenness, and uncleanness” along with “habits of idleness and love of pleasure”, in the U.S. Constitution.  He also campaigned against taverns and “clubs of all kinds where the only business of the company is feeding (for that is the true name of a gratification that is simply animal) are hurtful to morals”.   [See”The Benjamin Rush Prescription“, by psychologist Romeo Vitelli.] This leads me to believe Dr. Rush would strongly oppose naming the casino roadway Rush Street.

    2. Although Dr. Rush was a leading abolitionist, it should be noted that “In 1792, Rush read a paper before the American Philosophical Society which argued that the ‘color’ and ‘figure’ of blacks were derived from a form of leprosy. He argued that with proper treatment, blacks could be cured and become white [Wikipedia]  Also, despite his public condemnations of slavery, “Rush purchased a slave named William Grubber in 1776. To the consternation of many, Rush still owned Grubber when he joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1784.” [Id.]

    3. While other physicians gave up the practice of bloodletting and purges, Dr. Rush did not, and his practice waned. Indeed, “Some even blamed Rush’s bleeding for hastening the death of Benjamin Franklin, as well as George Washington . . ” [for more, see Wikipedia]

  3. RushPWD The Many Meanings and Connotations of the Word “rush”:  The word “rush” has many meanings as a verb, adjective, and noun, and quite a few of the meanings conjure up notions that seem unseemly, misleading, or unworthy for a great City and sober community to be pushing.  One example, of course, is the rush one gets from taking certain drugs. As described at Dictionary.com: “the initial, intensely pleasurable or exhilarated feeling experienced upon taking a narcotic or stimulant drug.” The little yellow bottle seen on the right contains a product deemed a liquid incense or aroma popper, thought of as cheap form of “club drug”. No matter what fans of the product my say or feel, neither the item nor the word comes to mind when I think about responsible gambling.  And, even if lots of the old rockers on the Senior Casino Tour buses arriving at Mohawk Harbor are fans of the band Rush, I’m finding it hard to fit the lyrics to their biggest hit, Tom Sawyer, into a useful mindset relative to the future of the City of Schenectady.
  4. RushStreetGamingLogo Naming the Street after Rush Street Gaming. Pretentious. At-Best Premature. Surely proof that Fools Rush In. Rush Street Gaming has yet to prove that it will be a good corporate neighbor or citizen in Schenectady, and thus perhaps the recipient of an Honorary Street Name some day. At “Snowmen at the Gates” (f/k/a Stop the Schenectady Casino)), there is plenty of proof that RSG asks for much and gives virtually nothing it is not forced by law to give. It certainly has been far more generous at its other casino locations with extra funding for local development and community services, and general mitigation of impact expenses, than in Schenectady, where the Mayor and City Council have given it all it wants, and more. Moreover, Neil Bluhm is far too good of a businessman to refuse to listen to offers to buy him out at Mohawk Harbor.  E.g., in 2012, he and Greg Carlin sold their Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg, Miss., just four years after it opened, and after failing in their immediate request for a 60% reduction in their property tax assessment. That makes the Rush Street connection less than solid. Our elected leaders should have some self-respect and say no to this name grab.  That could start a great new precedent, asserting that Schenectady has a casino, but is Not a Casino Town.

Conclusion: Even if “Rush Street” were tolerably acceptable as a street name in Mohawk Harbor (which it is not), honoring our ALCO history and signaling our belief in a future that will once again be productive and worthy of civic pride are goals that point strongly to rejection of the street name Rush Street.

 

will Problem Gambling Awareness Month inspire action?

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Helpline: 1-800-522-4700

 March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month [poster}

What are our public health officials and other local political and community leaders doing to combat problem gambling?

We believe that only organized programs specifically focused on problem gambling prevention, education, and treatment, with ongoing outreach activities, can hope to address the effects that a casino in Schenectady is likely to have on our community. With Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor now scheduled to open in a year, such programs are needed ASAP and must especially target vulnerable groups, such as aging adults, low-income residents, and youth.

So far, our City and County governments have refused to admit there is a problem, much less that it will be significant. Rush Street Gaming declared in its Application to the NYS Racing Commission for a Schenectady casino license that funding for treatment programs, and the prior existence of slots in Saratoga and casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut, meant that “the existence of gaming at Rivers Casino is not expected to lead to an increase in prevalence rates in the local area.” With that assertion, Rush Street denied that increased proximity and access to casino-style gambling will increase the prevalence of problem gambling in our community. The report Why Casinos Matter, by the Council on Casinos of the Institute for American Values, states to the contrary (at 18-19):

“Numerous studies show that living close to a casino is a key factor in more frequent gambling. More frequent gambling increases the risk of serious problem gambling. A large-scale study in 2004 found that people who live within 10 miles of a casino have twice the rate of pathological and problem gambling as those who do not.”

Similarly, after doing an extensive review of the available research, the Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) group No Downtown Casino strongly and successfully opposed building a casino in downtown Hamilton, stressing that:

“Studies show that proximity to a casino doubles the levels of problem gambling, which in turn results in increased spousal abuse, depression, child developmental issues, personal debt, addiction and cross-dependency, personal bankruptcies, attempted suicides, suicides, social service costs. We know that problem gambling has a profound impact on a gambler’s friends and families, which substantially increases the number of people affected by problem gambling.”

Therefore, we congratulate the Schenectady Gazette editorial staff for raising the issue of problem gambling in today’s newspaper, in an editorial promoting the State’s proposals to improve the gambler self-exclusion  program (“Help Problem Gamblers Help Themselves“, March 2, 2016). Nevertheless, we hope the Gazette will call for far more comprehensive programs locally and statewide against problem gambling. We believe that self-exclusion from casinos by individuals who recognize they have a gambling problem and want to do something about it is, at best, a very limited approach to the plague of Problem Gambling. In a way, it is a mere fig-leaf covering a multitude of ways that casinos encourage irresponsible gambling. The 2,800 people who are currently on New York’s self-exclusion list are, for example, a tiny portion of the 15 to 20 percent of those who frequently gamble at casinos and are believed to be problem gamblers.

PGPosterdetailG  In addition, of course, Self-Exclusion programs are far from infallible. Thus, the article “Policing gamblers who can’t police themselves isn’t easy” (Philadelphia Inquirer, by Jennifer Lin, September 9, 2013) states:

“It is somewhere between infrequent and unlikely that you will be detected,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. Casinos “rely on security guards at the entrance with an antique face book – a binder with photos” of customers on self-exclusion lists.

SugarHouseLogo Mohawk Harbor’s Rush Street Gaming has demonstrated the enforcement difficulty rather frequently in its Philadelphia casino, SugarHouse.  For example, see “Sugar House fined for advancing cash to problem gamblers” (Philadelphia Inquirer, September 6, 2015), which reported that “The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board fined SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia $50,000 for giving cash advances to 11 individuals who asked to be banned from casinos in Pennsylvania.” Similarly, note the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board press release of May 23, 2012, announcing that SugarHouse was fined $70,000 “for seven instances where underage individuals [ranging in age from 17 to 20] engaged in gaming,” and an additional $10,000 “for two separate incidents in November 2010 and March 2011 in which two individuals who had placed themselves on the PGCB’s Self-Exclusion List engaged in gambling.”

A more amazing incident is described in “Casino developer allowed man to gamble 70-plus straight hours in Philly” (Telegraph & Gazette, Worcester, Mass, August 20, 2013), which quoted the following statement by Pennsylvania Gaming Board Commissioner Gregory C. Fajt to SugarHouse officials:

“It boggles my mind that somebody can be in your facility for three days in one instance, four days in another, a known compulsive gambler on the list and not be recognized.” 

Rush Street’s Rosemarie Cook replied: “I assure you it was not a case of being asleep at the wheel. . . . He was just average, and he looked average,” The Inquirer article cited above also discussed that incident, stating: “At their July meeting, Pennsylvania’s gaming commissioners excoriated SugarHouse representatives for not catching [frequent violator Kylee] Bryant.”

Despite the above record at SugarHouse (which I uncovered with just a few minutes of Googling), Rush Street recently issued this statement to the press (“New York to step up effort to battle problem gambling“, by Haley Viccaro, Schenectady Gazette, March 2, 2016):

“We have a strong history when it comes to responsible gaming at our other properties, including operating under statewide self-exclusion policies, and we look forward to continuing that same record of excellence in Schenectady.”

At a symposium on problem gambling held at Schenectady County Community College last year, the Rush Street representative was excited about their efforts to promote responsible gambling, but their efforts apparently revolve around helping the staff identify underage persons, problem gamblers and drinkers, and policing the state’s mandated self-exclusion program. Perhaps, we simply cannot expect more of a casino, when, as stated in Why Casinos Matter:

Casinos depend on problem gamblers for their revenue base.

NoEvil-hear Problem gamblers account for 40 to 60 percent of slot machine revenues, according to studies conducted over the past decade or so. This evidence contradicts claims by gambling lobbyists that their industry wants to attract only those customers who play casually “for fun.” Indeed, if casinos had to rely on such casual customers, they would not long survive. A Canadian study found that casual players comprised 75 percent of players but contributed only 4 percent of net gambling revenue. The casinos’ real money comes from problem gamblers.

NoEvil For similar reasons, we perhaps cannot count on a City Hall and County Legislature banking on major tax relief that is based on the size of casino revenues to seriously recognize and combat the imminent growth of Schenectady’s problem gambling problem. One result of Mayor Gary McCarthy never demanding a host community or mitigation agreement with Rush Street Gaming is that the Mayor and his Administration, like Metroplex and County Government, never did or commissioned any independent research or investigation that could be used to rebut the glib claims of Rush Street and Galesi Group that a casino would have no significant added costs or negative impact on the City, nearby neighborhoods or towns, or the County.  (See our posting on The Mayor and HCAs.)

LagoLogoB&W Things were different in the tiny town of Tyre and Seneca County to our west, when they confronted the potential coming of the Lago Casino to Tyre, NY. They sat down with applicant-developer Wilmot, commissioned studies, and accomplished a multi-faceted Host Community Agreement that squarely faced a multitude of issues, including the specter of problem gambling. To fulfill an agreement with Seneca County Mental Health Department that was incorporated into the Tyre Host Community Agreement [June 2014], Lago Casino will pay for hiring two additional problem gambling specialists (one for treatment and one for prevention). More important, Seneca County and casino developer Wilmot set out the structure for a Problem Gambling Prevention, Outreach and Education Program that will seriously address the issues relating to problem gambling.

Here are some of the provisions in the 3-page Seneca County Problem Gambling Protocol:

  • In partnership with Seneca County Mental Health, Wilmot Casino will fund materials to be used for prevention, outreach and education to vulnerable populations in the Seneca County area.

  • [SCMH] will begin their outreach and education efforts once Wilmot Casino is granted the casino license, prior to the opening of the casino.

  • Initiatives to address problem gambling will focus on impacts in the workplace, family, neighborhood, youth, older adults, public safety and crime prevention awareness.

  • Problem gambling public awareness efforts will target messaging at specifically vulnerable populations including youth, parents as influencers on youth, family member of problem gamblers, indviduals and families with substance abuse disorders, college students, low income residents and aging adults.

  • Age appropriate programming and education on problem gambling will target youth beginning no  later than age 12.

  • Problem gambling education will be infused into all Seneca County Mental Health programs including but not limited to summer camps, Family Education Programs, Crime Victims Assistance Program, Domestic Violence Services and Domestic Abuse Awareness Classes.

  • Outreach and education specifically targeted at the Aging Adult population will take place at senior centers, retirement community events, etc.

Seneca County and Town of Tyre officials clearly understand that “partnering” with a casino developer means far more than helping it win its gaming license by avoiding all talk of negative impacts and added expenses; and the Wilmot Company expects to do much more than make demands and seek concessions in upholding its part of the partnership. It may be too late for Schenectady to use any leverage to achieve a impact mitigation agreement with Rush Street and Galesi, but it certainly is not too late for City and County leaders to establish and implement an outreach, education, prevention, and treatment program to combat problem gambling. Our not-for-profit sector (especially the Counseling and Helping Professions), faith communities, local media, academic leaders (at the collegiate level, and in our public, charter and parochial schools) need to speak out immediately, strongly and consistently to ensure that the County and City have necessary programs in place before Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor begins operations.

. . share this post with the short URL: http://tinyurl.com/ProbGambSchdy 
 For more information and assistance, see: PGPosterdetail

Call: 1-800-522-4700
Text: 1-800-522-4700
Chat: ncpgambling.org/chat

 red check follow-up (March 3, 2017): see our more optimistic coverage of 2017 Problem Gambling Aware Month

schdycityhallf Note: The editor of this website has started a modest Problem Gambling Postcard Project to help deal with related problems and educational needs. The postcards are available at The Open Door Book Store on Jay Street in downtown Schenectady. See the Postcards Page at “suns along the Mohawk” for a description of the project, which will donate all of the photographer’s proceeds with the intention of helping to deter and treat problem gambling.

Trump’s Taj casino doesn’t want a college nextdoor

It looks like the folks at Trump Entertainment have more sense than our Rush Street crew, City Hall, the Gaming Facility Location Board, and the Administration of Union College.  Here’s what they posted on their website last week about Stockton University wanting to use the lot next door for a campus:

podiumflip“The facts are that our company does not think having a college next door to the Taj is good for our company. Having kids under 21 who will attempt to gain entry to the casino and engage in activities reserved for those only 21 and older would create numerous problems we do not want, and could damage the Taj’s ability to attract customers and regain its financial health. You do not see a college on the Las Vegas strip. “

According to a story in the Courier-Post (March 25, 2015), Stockton’s president, Herman Saatkamp, lashed out at Trump Entertainment on Tuesday night, saying, “We have been stabbed in the heart.” Stockton College purchased the property, the site of the failed Showboat Casino, knowing that the Taj Mahal Casino would have to waive their rights to block anything other than a major casino at that location, for the school to have a campus there.  For details on the story, see “Taj casino doesn’t want college next-door” (AP/Courier-Post, March 25, 2015).

We’ are, of course, opposed to a casino near a college for different reasons than Trump Entertainment. See our posts “Union College and the Schenectady casino” and “what will the casino mean for Union College students?”. But, realizing that there are good business-related reasons for a casino to avoid such proximity to thousands of college students makes it even less palatable that local and State officials refused to acknowledge the problem.

Leadership We understand that Union College President Stephen Ainlay may fear retribution from the City, Metroplex and Galesi-related donors, for speaking out against a casino at Mohawk Harbor. Nevertheless, the silence of such an important local institution, despite the potential harm to its student body, shows an irresponsible lack of leadership and courage.  Click on the image at the right of this paragraph to see a poster about college presidents created by the (successful) opponents to a casino in downtown Hamilton, Ottawa, Canada. 

 

what will the casino mean for Union College students?

– SmallShark click this link for our Statement to the Location Board on the problem with having a casino so close to Union College

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– original posting with updates [more updates have been placed at the end of the posting] –

Letter to the Editor in Schenectadt Daily Gazette on June 7, 2014 by Carol Hyde of Niskayuna regarding the effect of a casino on nearby college students  A Niskayuna mother (and managing partner of an Albany-Poughkeepsie law firm), Carol A. Hyde, asks some very important questions in a Letter to the Editor printed in today’s Schenectady Daily Gazette (“Union, SCCC will be affected by casino,” June 7, 2014, C7; available by subscription).  Her main question is how the casino will affect already-poker-crazy students living practically right across the street?  Will they study less and spend their money becoming gambling addicts? Click on the image at the front of this paragraph to read the Letter.  Thank you Ms. Hyde for your letter, and thank you, Gazette, for printing it.

Note: Union College has a policy requiring all undergraduate students to reside in College housing.  From the perspective of the casino operators, the policy conveniently places the vast majority of the student body just an easy stroll away from the proposed casino.

We should, of course, also ask how safe students, perhaps especially female students, would be or feel at night walking in the adjacent “College Park” neighborhood or on Campus, given the expected increase in street crime when the casino opens. [see the section on Crime below.] What other problems might we expect when a casino open 24 hours a day is located near a campus already known as a major party school (e.g., with the highest ranking among all small colleges; also see here), with an abundance of “keggers” and poker parties?

  • Studies. 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. For example: 1) College Student Booklet (Illinois DHS)  “Festering Beneath the Surface: Gambling and College Students“; 2) Problem and Pathological Gambling Among College Students, Randy Stinchfield, William E. Hanson, Douglas H. Olson; 3) California Council of Problem Gambling, College Student Web pages;  and, see our Issues Page re Young Gamblers for a fuller list.
    • “Colleges and universities located near gambling facilities had higher rates of student problem gambling behavior for their students”, See “College Problem Gambling Literature Review“, Jim Emshoff, Ph.D., Georgia State University (Jan. 2008), and citations to other resources.
    • 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.”
  • casino-PropsHopsRules Targeting the Young Gambler: (Aug. 1, 2014): Rush Street Gaming is experienced in marketing to the Young Gambler.  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.” (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.) They 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.
    • We can also expect a Schenectady casino to organize or facilitate groups of students coming from neighboring states where you must be 21 to gamble.
    • Gambling at a Casino appears to be more addictive than gambling online, according to work done at the Harvard Medical School Division on Addiction. See “Gambling Online, Gambling in Casinos: What’s More Addictive?” (The Atlantic, July 2014).
  • Gambling Age? We apologize for our earlier error in stating that the permitted gambling age will be 18 at the “destination gaming facilities” that will be licensed under the Upstate New Gaming and Economic Development Act of 2013 (click for the text of the Act).  You must be 21 to gamble at any new facility licensed under the Act. Although the general age to gamble in New York State is 18, the Act added an exception for the casinos, stating:

§1332.  Age for gaming participation   1. No person under the age at which a person is authorized to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages shall enter, or wager in, a licensed casino; provided, however, that such a person may enter a casino facility by way of passage to another room . . . “

Any winnings by a person prohibited under the above section must be forfeited and put into the State’s gaming revenues fund. Those under 21 are still allowed in other parts of the casino facility (restaurants, entertainment events, etc.), but not the actual “casino” rooms where the gambling is allowed.

“Racino” locations and Indian reservations may continue to allow 18 year-olds to gamble.  Such facilities either send them into special under-21 areas or give them wristbands indicating they are under 21, so they won’t be served alcohol.  Attempts by lawmakers and others to raise the gambling age at the racinos have gone nowhere in the State Legislature. See, e.g., “Bill to raise gambling age to 21 reintroduced: Addabbo, Goldfeder sponsor proposal” (Queens Chronicle, by Dominic Rafter, Feb. 7, 2013); and the ChangeTo20 campaign.

  •  “Quicksand Credit“: As Casino-Free Philadelphia explains: “SugarHouse casino [owned by Rush Street Gaming], as well as most other casinos in the country, offer their customers unlimited lines of credit, which can only be used to gamble at the casino. There is no interest on the line of credit, and it must be paid back in 30 days.The casinos call this a “convenience” so you don’t have to carry large amounts of cash to the casino — but they’ll happily give you more cash than you have. Having access to a line of credit makes a person more likely to keep playing — making SugarHouse’s billionaire investors richer.
    • Gambling and Budgets: At the Union College website, I found a Student Guide for studying abroad in Australia.  In the section How Much Money Will You Need?, there is a subsection titled Spending Money, which contains this guidance:
A word about gambling
During the last three or four years we have occasionally received calls from parents concerned about the amount of charges appearing on bank cards or credit cards. They felt that our recommendations and estimates here about money were too low and not realistic. Thus far, in each case where our estimates have been far off, it has turned out that students were attracted to a very rich and active life at a local casino in Brisbane. BE FOREWARNED! Gambling can be addictive and is very, very expensive. In the long run, one seldom ‘wins’. If you think you will give the casino a try, set a maximum budget IN ADVANCE and do not deviate from that sum.

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– how close would the casino be to Union College’s 2200 undergraduate students?

Google Map of Union College Residences

Google map with Union College Residence Halls –

  • 257 students at College Park Hall (former Ramada Inn) – about a block away. Indeed, the casino appears to be closer than any other restaurant or bar.
  • 130 upperclass students in the renovated homes, and fraternity houses, comprising the College Park Neighborhood Apartments on Seward Pl. and Huron St. – 3 blocks away.  update: A large new housing complex for upperclassman was announced at the end of July that would also be in the tiny College Park neighborhood.
  • residence halls on main campus – 4 blocks away.
  • update (July 12, 2014): the new rendering of the casino project shows the casino itself located right at Nott Street and Erie Boulevard, so that all the young prospective gamblers (or the elderly from East Front Street) won’t need to trek a long distance into the 60-acre site.

– share this post with this short URL: http://tinyurl.com/schdycasino-colleges

UnionCollegeGamingLaw Note: What a difference two hundred years makes.  As a religious school, Union College naturally prohibited all sorts of vices (from drinking spirits and engaging in “carnival entertainment,” to using gaming devices) in the early 19th Century.  However, if you click on the image at the head of this paragraph you will see legislation passed in 1813 by the New York State Legislature concerning Union College students and gaming.  In two hundred years, the State went from criminalizing to enabling gaming by the students of Union College:

“[I]t shall not be lawful for any person to entice the students of Union College . . . into the vice of gaming, by keeping within the first and second wards of the city of Schenectady, any billiard-table or other instrument or device for the purpose of gaming” [with a fine of $25.00 “for every such offense”]. See The Laws of Union College (1915), at 46.

[Note: Look at the size of that fine: $25 per incident was real money back then, the equivalent today of over $300.]

 CRIME: The entire Union College complex, including the Main Campus, the College Park off-campus housing area and College Park Residence Hall, are clearly within the radius of surrounding neighborhoods likely to experience increased crime after the opening of a casino. See our posting will a casino bring more crime?, and materials referenced there.  As explained in our post “did crime go up around the SugarHouse casino?”  a study that Rush Street Gaming uses to claim that crime went down in the area surroundings its SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia has many caveats (e.g., it did not cover DUI or prostitution), and states, for example (emphases added):

  • 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.”
  • Philadelphia PD created a 14-man dedicated police unit whose sole task was to patrol a one-half-mile square around the casino.

What About the Parents?  It would seem sensible for Union College parents to protest having a casino a short stroll from where their young adult children will be living and pursuing an education.  My question to the UC office for parent relations have, like all other correspondence to the school staff, gone unanswered.  This is what Mike Hendricks, Editor-in-chief of Albany Business Review, had to say on the topic, in a Viewpoint column called “Computer chips or poker chips” (June 16, 2014):

The casino would be less than a five-minute walk from the relatively new dorm off the Union College campus. One of the premier institutions in Schenectady, Union College is one of those high-tuition private colleges. Whatever I might think about the economic viability of a casino, if I was the parent of a high school senior picking a college and I had to pay that kind of tuition, I might find a casino across the street from the dorm to be concerning.

Hendricks is concerned. I’m concerned. So, why isn’t Pres. Ainlay concerned enough to say something?  At the very least, shouldn’t the School press the Schenectady applicant to prevent gambling by those under 21, as was done at two of the four Indian casinos in the State?  Union College might also ask the Location Board to impose such a restriction as a term in any gaming license that it grants in Upstate New York. Update (March 6, 2016): A major Q&A article with President Ainlay in the Gazette about the relationship of Union College and the City fails to mention the casino.  “Q & A with Stepen AInlay: City, School ‘Tied at Hip’,” by Zachary Matson (online March 5, 2016)

threemonkeys Donation Deafness? Buddy Blindness? We don’t pretend to know why Union College has been so silent and evasive on the topic of the casino. It is difficult to avoid speculation on the institutional silence.  Historians consider Union College to be the Mother of the American fraternity movement and system, and believe that the establishment of the first fraternities at Union College, in off-campus residences, in the 19th Century, was the beginning of the end of the in loco parentis concept (schools acting “in the place of parents”) at American colleges. But, UC’s apparent casino indifference can’t merely be because the Administration doesn’t want to sound like a worry-wort nanny or a substitute for Helicopter Parents.  The School’s comprehensive Wellness Center and its Honor Code show that Union College does feel obligated to help its students to develop into healthy and socially-responsible adults.

images-3 Is the President’s role as Fundraiser-in-Chief at the core of the School’s failure to voice concern over the proximity of the proposed casino? The pool of actual and potential big donors is not that large in a City as small as Schenectady, and its academic, business-development, and political “elites” can’t help rubbing elbows on boards of directors, at awards, cultural, and fundraising events, and private parties among friends.

Is the Administration reluctant to ruffle the feathers or create bad will with business leaders as prominent as the heads of the Galesi Group, or with County, City and Metroplex officials whose cooperation might be important in the future? Is it afraid that it will tarnish its image as a main element in the “revitalization” of Schenectady and development of the region?

Stephen Ainlay also wears the hat of the Chancellor of Union University, which includes Union College and Union Graduate College, along with several other units.  The units of the University have been structured to be self-governing, with fiscal independence, but they surely pay attention to the opinions and needs of the heads of each part of the Union Family. Is Chancellor Ainlay reluctant to rain on the parade of David Buicko, the COO of the Galesi Group, which owns the ALCO site and is the developer of the Mohawk Harbor complex?  I suspect that it might be difficult — consciously or not — to openly oppose a casino that is being sought by David Buicko, when he is considered a Community Partner and major fund-raiser by Union Graduate College. Its President recently nominated Buicko for a Community Hero award, saying:

yinyang “I can think of no other single individual who has had the broad and positive effect on Schenectady that Dave Buicko has had. . . .

“Nothing that has been done to date in Schenectady will be quite as transformational as the innovative and break-through project planned for the Alco site on the Mohawk River that Dave initiated in the last year. “ [see “Union Graduate College Community Partner Dave Buicko Receives ‘Hero Award’” (Union Graduate College News, May 27, 2014)

Mr. Buicko also had some very kind words about the incoming Dean of the Graduate College, in 2011.  Here’s an excerpt from Union Graduate College News, September 4, 2011, “Bela Musits Named Dean”:

“Bela Musits is an innovator, well-respected and admired throughout the business community,” said David Buicko, President, Galesi Management and Chair, Center for Economic Growth Board of Directors.  “Naming him Dean of the School of Management is a coup not just for Union Graduate College but for all of us invested in economic development. I look forward to helping him succeed in his new role.”

Buicko is chairing Union Graduate College 2011 Scholarship Scramble golf tournament at Eagle Crest Golf Club in Clifton Park on September 16, 2011.

How connections with community and business leaders mesh with Union College’s promise to “work with city leaders to ensure that any and all revitalization efforts dovetail with our responsibility to our students,” is an important question I hope will soon be clarified.

NoloSharkS  Young people are “the  future of casino gambling”: This is what the report Why Casinos Matter, from the Institute for American Values (2013) has to say about young people and casino gambling:

 Young people are viewed as the future of casino gambling. SharkGF

A recent American Gaming Association survey of casino visitors ages 21- 35 found that young people had the highest rate of casino visitation and the greatest level of acceptance of casino gambling among all casino visitors. Nearly 4 out of 10 (39 percent) had gone to a casino in the past year, and 9 out of 10 agreed that casino gambling was acceptable for themselves and others. Machine gambling was ranked as the most popular game among young adults. Frank Fahrenkopf of the American Gaming Association highlighted this news in a 2013 industry report, stating that young people are “the very people with whom the future of our business lies.”

  That future is not far off. More than any earlier generation, today’s young people are technologically primed for gambling. From an early age, kids learn to play games by tapping buttons and tracking images on screens. They spend money with a swipe of a debit card. They play video games. They live on social media. For these reasons, young people are a soft target for Internet gambling—the next frontier for legalized gambling.

The first national U.S. survey of gambling among adolescents and young adults found that gambling among youth is widespread. It estimates that three-quarters of a million young people ages 14-21 are already problem gamblers.

See the article, Mining Millenials (Global Gambling Magazine, by Marjorie Preston, July 29, 2014,
Vol. 13, No. 8), for an example of how the gaming industry perceives young gamblers and the challenge of appealing to them.

 The Teenage Protection Alliance has started the ChangeTo20 campaign, to make 20 the age of majority at which individuals may gamble.  They are focusing first on New York, because of the rapid expansion of Casinos that is expected in the next year or two. We hope their work will help raise consciousness of the many problems caused by allowing teenagers to gamble.

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IMG_4692 Schenectady County Community College. Yes, we are also worried about the effects of a close-by casino on the students at Schenectady County Community College.  SCCC has about 2700 full-time and 1700 part-time students and now has a large residence hall.  Anticipating the expansion of gaming in the State, SCCC started a Casino & Gaming Management A.A.S. Program, which will have close ties to the proposed casino. The main campus is less than one mile (by foot or car) from the proposed casino site (and I imagine many SCCC students will be cutting through the Stockade for a shortcut to the casino).

According to the Albany Business Review (by Megan Rogers, June 16, 2014):

“Schenectady County Community College board of trustees will vote tonight to support the $450 million Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, about a mile from its campus.

“The Schenectady, New York casino project would provide an “invaluable and close-at-hand” resource to students in the two-year school’s casino gaming management, culinary, tourism and hospitality programs, according to the resolution.”

Is the SCCC Board of Trustees aware that casino employees make up a very large percentage of the troubled people calling Problem Gambling Help Lines?  Young employees and interns might, of course, be even more at risk than their older colleagues.

Followup: See “Students all in on casino future: Many see SCCC program as ‘head start’ to local jobs’,” (Sunday Gazette, at C 1, by Zachary Matson, March 13, 2016).

CONCLUSION (for now): As was stated in the Sunday Gazette OpEd piece linked above:

There are many good reasons for a socially-responsible university to oppose its City or State basing economic development and revenue raising on the operation of casinos.  Moreover, there seems to be no justification for Union College to remain silent when the location of a proposed casino so directly threatens its community, including the psychological, physical, social, academic and vocational welfare of its students.

MISCELLANEOUS UPDATES and FOLLOW-UP COMMENTS:

Looming Pylon: Note: in addition to the many issues discussed above, the Casino will have a giant pylon sign structure at the corner of Front and Nott Streets, just a little over a block from the College Park Residence Hall. it will be 80′ tall, with a very large, inner-illuminated white sign declaring the name of the casino on top, and 32′-tall LCD screens on each of its v-wings, with nothing taller than a railroad underpass between the sign and the dormitory. See, e.g., “bait and switch along the Mohawk“.

ha collage showing proximity of college dorm to proposed Schenectady casino. .

– click on the collage above to see The Casino & the Dorm –

 

[prior] follow-up (Sept. 19, 2014): An article in today’s Schenectady Gazette finally has a response from Union College President Stephen Ainlay on the issue of the nearby casino. (“Area colleges betting on Schenectady Casino,” by Haley Viccaro, Sept. 19, 2014).  The article states:

Union College President Stephen Ainlay said he has some concerns about a casino being built around the corner from the 120-acre campus off Nott Street.

“Are there anxieties? Yes, there are,” he said last week after Union’s annual business campaign breakfast. “There are things we are worried about, so we’re watchful, I guess you would say.” . . .

Ainlay declined to comment on his specific concerns or a potential rise in problem gambling among Union’s undergraduates, but students at the college say they would visit a casino that’s only about a 10-minute walk from campus. Casino patrons must be 21 or older to gamble under terms of the Upstate NY Gaming and Economic Development Act. In June, Union had 500 graduating seniors, most of whom were 21 or older.

just say no

[prior] update (Aug. 8, 2014): This is the only statement we have been able to obtain from the Union College Administration in response to questions about the casino:

podiumflip “President Ainlay stands by his statement that we are supportive of Schenectady’s ongoing revitalization efforts and understand the interest in bringing revenues and jobs to the city. We stand ready to work with city leaders to ensure that any and all revitalization efforts dovetail with our responsibility to our students. I hope this helps in your conversations with the community.”

The statement was sent to Schenectady Councilman Vince Riggi on July 1, 2014, by the Chief of Staff in the Office of the President on behalf of Pres. Stephen C. Ainlay.  Riggi was promised a reply from Pres. Ainlay upon his return from vacation in mid-August, but he has not received one. The same response, verbatim, was sent to a Schenectady Gazette reporter. Our requests for amplification or clarification have gone unanswered.

TooTempting-headline31Aug2014 (September 1, 2014): Perhaps yesterday’s Viewpoints column in the Sunday Gazette, “Too tempting?: Casino could create young gamblers, but college remains silent” (D1, August 31, 2014, by David Giacalone) will finally merit a response from the President’s Office, a professor, or some other responsible member of the staff. Click here for the text of the “Too tempting?” OpEd piece in a pdf file.

update (March 29, 2015): see our posting Taj casino doesn’t want a college next-door” (March 29, 2015).

 

 

reprise: wise words from Mr. Hafez

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.

Closedsm 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.

abacus 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.

Mohamed Hafez,

Schenectady