Wants gambling facilities built away from Catskills
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The state’s voters approved the expansion of casino gambling in New York in November and with the state’s Gaming Commission mulling where to build the new gambling facilities, one Brooklyn lawmaker has been outspoken as to where he doesn’t want to see the slot machines, blackjack tables and roulette wheels.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park-Midwood) is urging the New York State Gaming Commission to steer clear of the Catskills.
Hikind said the commission should take into consideration that thousands of families and children spend summers in the Catskills at long-established camps, bungalows and summer homes.
The Gaming Commission will decide who gets licenses to open gambling casinos. The commission regulates all aspects of gaming and gambling activity in the state, including horse racing, pari-mutuel wagering, the state lottery (including video lottery terminals) and charitable gaming.
“Before licenses are awarded, I am calling on the Gaming Commission to take certain factors into account,” Hikind said. “Primary among those considerations should be keeping casinos away from children.”
The proposal to expand the state’s gambling footprint was supported by 57 percent of the state’s voters in the most recent election.
Governor Andrew Cuomo supported the idea of building more casinos, The New York Times reported.
New York State currently has five casinos operated by Indian reservations, all of them located on upstate, as well as nine slot machine parlors located inside racetracks.
The State Legislature voted to require that, for now, only four new casinos be allowed. All of those casinos are to be built upstate: in the Albany area; the Catskills-Hudson Valley region; and part of the Southern Tier, a region that runs along the New York-Pennsylvania border.
Supporters said the casinos will create much-needed jobs, attract tourism and boost the economy in some of the state’s hardest hit regions.
Hikind, who voted against the proposal to build more casinos, acknowledged that casinos will become a reality in upstate New York. He said the state needs to be careful where to put them.
“I have no problem with people gambling if they want to, and let the state earn revenue from these establishments; create jobs and stimulate the economy. But in the name of decency, let’s attempt to keep casinos away from children,” he said.
Hikind said his biggest concern is minimizing exposure to casinos from the thousands of children who attend camp in the Catskills during the summer.
“Adding five or ten miles to someone’s drive to a casino would hardly inconvenience them when, in comparison, putting a casino in the backyard of thousands of teenagers will certainly expose their risk to things that most parents work hard to protect their children from,” Hikind said. “I am asking that the casinos be placed closest to the city so the vast numbers of their potential customers have the easiest access, anyway. This will keep families who don’t want easy access for their children farther away from gambling. Anyone who wants to drive to the casinos can certainly do so, but teenagers and young adults won’t be walking in from town.”