On Politics: Adding a casino at Hudson Yards would not benefit NYC’s economy


From an economic development and revenue generating standpoint, gambling simply isn’t a panacea. Legalized in January, mobile sports betting revenue skyrocketed before crashing in the summer. The return of football season should lead to another spike, but there is a limit to how much money the state can take in from a growing cohort of problem gamblers. By June, mobile sports betting had generated $263 million in revenue for the state, which sounds like a lot until you consider the actual size of New York’s $220.5 billion budget. In that context, $263 million or $363 million or $763 million is little more than a rounding error.

And for what? Mobile sports betting has been quietly fueling a new generation of gambling addicts, young men in particular who now find they can wager on sports at all hours of the day and night from their smartphones. The social costs of legalizing instant betting will be felt for years to come, and few policymakers thought through what it was they were unleashing. A gambling addiction isn’t too different from a drug addiction.

In this context, casinos are less dangerous: They are physical spaces gamblers travel to and later leave. Many go to casinos to have dinner, see a show or drink with friends. Putting aside the problem of gambling addictions, casinos, even in dense cities, are not going to meaningfully affect economic development. Businesses in New York thrive through being in close proximity to one another, benefiting from foot traffic. A pizzeria, a barbershop, a pharmacy and an antiques store can all succeed on a single block. Casinos aren’t like this at all.

People go to casinos to spend all or most of the money they’ve budgeted for that day. A dinner at a Manhattan restaurant can lead to a ticket for a Broadway show and a trip to get ice cream later on. Casinos would devour most, if not all, of that revenue. Small businesses aren’t going to suddenly thrive if Hudson Yards gets its casino. There are far better uses for that land.

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