Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 12, 2013

GLYNN: Casino issue returns to upstate New York in 2013

Niagara Gazette —  Whenever you hear talk about boosting economic development in upstate New York, don't get too excited.

It could be just another promise to funnel state funds into Poughkeepsie, Glens Falls or Old Forge in the Adirondack Mountains, a favorite summer place for the state chief executive and his family. Even if the target area is Western New York, the Buffalo-Niagara region may be left out of the loop.

Now Gov. Cuomo has gone up on the mountain — his recent State of the State gave that  impression — to announce his vision for three new casinos to bolster the struggling upstate communities. 

The Cataract City, of course, is not part of the governor's grandiose scheme because Niagara Falls already has an Indian-operated casino and, as Cuomo explained, the state certainly has no intention of breaking any compact with the Native Americans. He told reporters Thursday: "We're not going to violate any contracts that are in good standing. Get them to go upstate and use the casino/resort destination as the magnet to bring people up," Cuomo added. Part of the problem is defining "upstate."

What's hard to believe in all this casino hype is that countless tourists visiting New York are going to fly, drive or ride Amtrak upstate to bet at any casino. These sites will be glorified gambling halls, nothing as glitzy and inviting as the palaces in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Imagine, for a fleeting moment, a casino in Newburgh, upstate by Cuomo standards. You could easily spend a whole week there some Saturday night after you quit playing the slots.

Some observers familiar with Cuomo's uncanny ability to shift strategy on key issues contend that, if the state ends up legalizing casino gambling, he may eventually decide that downstate also needs to boost its economy (e.g. a casino at the refurbished Aqueduct Race Track.) You may recall the governor had that in mind when he suggested the state-of-the-art convention center at that track in the Borough of Queens.

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