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SUBMITTED by Kirk Baker, Williamson Fellowship of Churches (25-Jun-2012)

Statement on Governor Cuomo's Proposal to Legalize Commercial Casino Gambling throughout New York State

In this difficult economic time, many politicians rightfully focus on how to create jobs. Yet sometimes, the message becomes “all jobs are good, even if the ones created cost more jobs than they generate.” This message booms from the Governor's Mansion when Mr. Cuomo proposes opening five commercial casinos run by the subsidiary of a Southeast Asian gambling company.

As ministers, we deal regularly with people trying to pay for rent, utilities, and fuel. We support reducing unemployment and underemployment. Yet if we believe expanding gambling beyond the lottery and racinos (racetracks with video “lotteries”) will have an overall positive effect on employment, we are ignoring reality. This issue goes beyond politics, to impact our work strengthening our communities.

Gambling was practiced off and on regionally throughout the U.S. in its early years. Over time, though, we learned the true costs; when some people have access to 24-hour casinos, they quit their jobs, abandon their children, and leave their spouses; many states restricted gambling. After the Civil War, our weakened nation could not afford to support businesses that cost more money than they generated, so every state in the Union passed some form of anti-gambling legislation. Today, we are not as desperate as we were after the Civil War, so gambling may look attractive.

That is, until we learn that wherever commercial casinos have opened, unemployment, alcohol and drug addiction, prostitution, and violent crimes have increased. In 1981, Attorney General Robert Abrams wrote a report, strongly advising against legalizing casinos in New York State, based on an over 300% increase in violent crimes in Atlantic City only a few years after casino gambling started there. A study in 2000 by the University of Illinois, “Casino gambling causes crime,” opens with these direct conclusions: “Taken together, casinos impose crime and other costs – paid for by society, including those who do not gamble – that exceed their benefits and represent substantial burdens on nearby populations... casino gambling fails a cost-benefit test...” (E.L. Grinols, Policy Forum, 13-2). There are hundreds of studies, all reaching the same conclusions: casino gambling creates a net financial loss, through crime, addictions, unemployment, and the need for more police and courts.

In other words, Governor Cuomo claims he can balance the State Budget partly by taxing money earned by foreign-owned casinos, but hides the real cost to virtually every community in New York State. In 1993, then-Governor Mario Cuomo promoted legalizing keno games (such as QuickDraw) by promising to spend all revenue generated on education. Mario Cuomo then cut State education spending by virtually the same amount generated from keno “lotteries,” so no additional funding for education was offered. New York State voters would do well to remember this parallel now. Governor Andrew Cuomo may increase the money in state coffers, creating an illusion of fiscal responsibility that propels his political aims, but even more money than the State generates will be paid by cities, suburbs, and towns all across New York. As ministers devoted to healthy, fully-employed people and communities, and who encourage wise financial stewardship, we encourage you to vote against attempts to legalize casino gambling in New York State.

ABOUT WILLIAMSON FELLOWSHIP OF CHURCHES

The Williamson Fellowship of Churches is an organization devoted to presenting a united, Christian witness in Williamson and surrounding areas. As a general rule, we do not take up political issues. The proposal to legalize commercial casinos in New York State, however, transcends politics, impacting individuals spiritually, and the health of entire communities.

Kirk Baker, Pastor
Williamson Presbyterian Church

Carleen Frost, Lay Minister

Fran Gasparri, Pastor
Dottie Howland, Lay Minister
Wayne Mort, Pastor
Richard Morano, Lay Preacher
Williamson Reformed Church
Tim TenClay, Pastor
Tony Goddard, Pastor
Tedd Smith, Pastor
Sandra Stoica, Pastor
Pultneyville United Methodist Church
Don DiCrasto, Director

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