Everybody had a good laugh when Tina Fey, as Sarah Palin, said, “I can see Russia from my house.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo can see the state of Pennsylvania, at least metaphorically, from his office, and apparently he likes what he sees.
Cuomo, intent on finding new revenues and creating jobs, is entertaining some interesting job-creation ideas, and a few will blossom over the next few years. Perhaps one of his less-publicized proposals, which could bring in millions of dollars to the state treasury and create many job opportunities, is his idea that it’s time to legalize gambling in New York state.
You might wonder why the governor would think that gambling is any answer to the state’s economic problems. The answer is simple. Look next door to Pennsylvania. A few years ago, then Gov. Ed Rendell decided that the casinos in Atlantic City were taking a fortune out of the pockets of Pennsylvania residents.
How could Pennsylvania capitalize on those lost dollars? Within a very short time, its state legislature passed a law to give Pennsylvania the power to establish casinos. Even though gambling hasn’t been doing that well in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, it turns out that Pennsylvania made a very good bet when it changed the laws.
In September, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported that revenue generated through the play of slot machines rose 7.4 percent over the previous year. September gross revenue at 10 operating casinos was over $200 million. How much did the state get? Almost $109 million.
There is no doubt that Pennsylvania’s success has come at the expense of New Jersey. And if New York state had legalized casinos, it would cost Pennsylvania a lot of money. At one time, almost every tour bus leaving New York state was going to either New Jersey or Connecticut casinos. Now at least one-third of the buses are headed for Scranton, Pa.
Legalizing casino gambling in New York will not happen overnight. It will have to be passed by two separate legislatures for it to become law. That means next year, and then another bill must be voted on by the 2014-15 Legislature. If it is approved, it will go on the statewide ballot for a public vote as early as 2015.