why the 21-year-old rule at Rivers Casino?

 A number of people have left comments in the media this week, after learning that Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor was fined for allowing an underaged person — someone not yet 21 — to gamble. They wondered why the age for gambling at the casino isn’t 18, like at racinos and Indian casinos in the State. See “Underage gambler caught — but only after he won $1,300 on slot machinesSchenectady casino fined for letting him on the gambling floor” (Albany Times Union, by Paul Nelson, March 24, 2017); “State fines Rivers Casino $6k for underage-gambler” (Schenectady Daily Gazette, by Steven Cook, March 23, 2017). 

Here is the Comment I left at the Gazette explaining the legal situation and speculating on reasons:

 You’re right to be a little confused. Although the general age to gamble in New York State is 18, the Upstate New Gaming and Economic Development Act of 2013 added an exception for the commercial “destination” casinos approved by that statute. [click for the text of the Act] You must be 21 to gamble at any new facility licensed under the Act (Schenectady, Seneca Falls/Tyre, Tioga, and Monticello). Here’s the provision:

“§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.

Like many laws that seem illogical, the 21-age limit was probably a political concession to get the Constitutional Amendment and the 2013 Act passed. My guess is that the existing racino locations (which do not have live table games) pressed hard to have this advantage over the new commercial casinos; it might also have been a way to get the votes of others who were anti-gambling in general.

 Many people are concerned that the younger you are when introduced to casino gambling the more likely it is that you will develop a gambling problem. The mixture of alcohol and gambling is even more worrisome. See our posting “what will the casino mean for Union College students?“, which discusses such issues, and our particular concern over Rush Street Gaming’s practice of targeting younger gamblers. And see “Rush Street takes aim at adolescents” (Sept. 9, 2014).

Note that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has had to fine Rush Street’s Philadelphia casino, SugarHouse, numerous times for allowing underage gamblers and persons on the self-exclusion list to gamble. See details at our 2016 problem gambling post http://tinyurl.com/ProbGambSchdy

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. 

 

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:

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. We were, of course, unsuccessful in preventing a Schenectady Casino, but the concerns naturally remain. For a fuller discussion of the issues, see our posting what will the casino mean for Union College students?:

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 the Schenectady Casino 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.

Casino-VicinityMapE . . . casino-dormCollage

As can be seen in Attachment 1 and Attachment 6 (above), 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).

[Also see our posting what will the casino mean for Union College students?”, and 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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follow-upNote: in addition to the many issues discussed below, 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“.

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

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 (20 pages, plus twelve Attachments) was submitted that day to the Location Board, with a signed Cover Letter. A brief summary of the five major points made and explained in the Statement, along with thumbnails and links to the attachments, can be found below.

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OUR FIVE MAIN REASONS for OPPOSING the SCHENECTADY CASINO:

  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.  The Applicant claims that the casino would remove the largest brownfield in New York State, but the site remediation process is almost complete and would have been done without the casino, as required for the $200 million Mohawk Harbor development.
  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, a more regressive tax structure.
  1. The Applicant’s Local Support is Less Significant than It Claims and Weaker than in Competing Communities

Here are thumbnails and links to the Twelve Attachments we used to illustrate and supplement our Statement to the Location Board:

  •  #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, in the heart of the Stockade ..
    • Casino-AccessDetail

.. #6:

casino-dormCollage . . . a collage showing just how close a Union College dorm is to the casino (i.e., about a block away)

  • #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 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 (more people than were members of the Stockade Association over the past year).

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

the unseemly silence from Union College

red check For our summary of the Proximity to Union College issue, as presented in our Statement to the Location Board on September 22, 2014, see “Union College and the Schenectady Casino.”

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.

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

.

– 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.

.

– 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.

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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).