If Gov. Andrew Cuomo has his way, casinos will be awarded to three upstate locations.
His plan would have to be approved by the state Legislature and would be the subject of a referendum that would probably be held this autumn.
If the concept is approved by the voters and the Legislature, Cuomo said, an “independent selection committee” will choose where the casinos would be licensed to operate.
“Tourism is a great economic generator,” Cuomo said. “We need jobs in upstate New York and economic activity in upstate New York like we need oxygen.”
Well, y’know what? Our four-county area could really use some economic oxygen.
With our central location to Albany, Binghamton, Utica and other population centers, an excellent and under-used Interstate 88 and proximity to the Baseball Hall of Fame and other tourist attractions, the selection committee could do a whole lot worse than Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie and Chenango counties.
We’re not saying we’re for having a casino in our pristine part of the world, but we’re not saying we should dismiss the idea out of hand, either.
What we are saying, is that it’s a matter well worth discussing. If our citizens and leaders think it’s a good idea, then our economic development folks should be preparing to lobby that committee to take a good look at us.
There are a lot of problems associated with casino gambling. You could count on the crime rate getting higher, including prostitution, drug dealing and money laundering in addition to the woes created by gambling addiction. More police would have to be hired and paid for to keep order. Traffic would increase, and roads would have to be maintained. That can get expensive.
On the other hand, tax revenues could help fund any number of local projects and reduce the burden on residents. If — say — that money could have helped Otsego Manor stay owned by the county, that would have been a good thing.
Jobs would be created in and out of the casinos. New hotels, entertainment locations and restaurants could help make this area attractive for conventions of all kinds.
What can’t be disputed is the moribund state of our local economy. Whether it’s Oneonta or our small towns and villages or county government, money is tight everywhere.
Whether the problems we would get would outweigh the benefits is something to ponder and even argue over, with good arguments on both sides.
It’s essentially the same discussion we’ve been having over the past few years about horizontal hydrofracking. Would the presumed economic benefits be worth the possible environmental and quality-of-life risks?
We’re not certain, but it’s at least worth talking about.