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NIMBY: Communities Resist Construction of New Casinos

Published on October 25, 2014, 4:32 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

Even though New York voters approved a massive casino expansion in their state, Saratoga Springs residents are bracing themselves for a scenario they don't particularly want: A brand new casino in their backyard. The precise location of New York's next casino has not yet been determined, but the possibility exists that it could be located in Saratoga Springs.

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that construction of the facility could be finished as early as next January. His announcement only added to the sense of panic in those who don't want the new casino to be located in their town.

Two Democratic senators, Liz Krueger from Manhattan and Cecilia Tkaczyk from Duanesberg, introduced legislation in late January that would require new casinos to be located only in areas where residents approve of their addition. A law or other resolution would have to be passed locally before construction could begin on any casino in any town. Krueger said she doesn't want to see “bureaucrats . . . forcing casinos down the throats of communities that don't want them.” She expressed concern that local New York governments do not always have a voice when it comes to matters such as this.

Saratoga Springs residents, in community meetings, have made it known to the public that they do not want Cuomo's next casino to be built in their area. Other communities in the state are expected to express the same point of view.

Participants at the 'fact-finding roundtable presentation'
Participants at the 'fact-finding roundtable presentation' were wearing t-shirts against local gambling's expansion (Saratoga Springs City Center on Dec. 16, 2013)

Local Support: Already a Factor in Casino Location

Critics of the senators' proposal say that it is redundant. Local support is already a factor in the determination of new casino placement, according to some New York politicians. Three new casino locations are expected to be picked by an independent siting board this year. The board has promised take local attitudes into consideration before choosing the sites for the new casinos.

Unnecessary Legislation

The senators' proposed legislation is not necessary, according Melissa DeRosa, spokeswoman for the governor. DeRosa said that Cuomo will "reject attempts to sensationalize the issue with unnecessary legislation." According to De Rosa, the current process already considers the support of locals to be a “required factor" when selecting the location of a potential gambling hall.

The legislation proposed by the senators offers citizens the ability to create a written law or other decree that expressly allows or forbids the construction of a new casino. Although DeRosa insists that the siting board will take peoples' feelings into consideration, current policy does not offer citizens the ability to put a decree on paper.

Cuomo's Plight to Bring More Casinos to New York

The New York governor struggled for months to convince his citizens that adding seven new casinos would be a good thing for the state's education and economy. Cuomo's efforts paid off. Last November, a constitutional amendment to increase the casino offerings in New York was approved by 57 percent of voters at the polls. Cuomo cited increased jobs, better-funded schools, and recaptured revenue as three major reasons why the casino landscape should be expanded in New York. The majority of voters agreed.

Similar Struggles in Massachusetts

Last December, members of a grass roots Massachusetts organization called Casino-Free Milford pressed the public to reject the building of a new gambling hall in their town. This was not the first occurrence of such a conflict in the Bay State. Since the approval of three new Massachusetts casinos in 2011, six different communities have rejected the addition of a new gambling hall in their area. Casino-Free Milford spokesman Steve Trettel said, “It didn't take long to be convinced . . . this was not good for a small town.”

A billboard against the expansion of gambling in Milford
A billboard against the expansion of gambling in Milford

Fear of Crime and Other Social Ills

One of the reasons community members reject the idea of a casino in their area is their fear of increased crime rates and other social ills. While it is true that new casinos bring jobs and revenue, they can also contribute to increased crime rates, bankruptcy, and suicide. David Schwartz, spokesman for the Center for Gaming Research in Las Vegas, says there is “some . . . 'not in my back yard' going on.” Citizens support the idea of casinos in theory, but they often don't want to see such buildings sprouting up in their own neighborhoods. The social phenomenon Schwartz refers to is often abbreviated as “NIMBY.”

NIMBY is Not Everywhere

Not in my Backyard (NIMBY)
Not in my Backyard (NIMBY)

New York and Massachusetts have witnessed the NIMBY phenomenon when it comes to the addition of new gambling facilities, but this societal attitude does not exist everywhere. Recently in Pennsylvania, voters approved the construction of new gambling facilities in Philadelphia and Bethlehem. These buildings will take the place of a hazardous waste site and a vacant factory. In these particular situations, voters found the addition of the new facilities to be preferable to what was already there: Toxic waste and blighted property.

Non-Residential Areas: A Better Geographical Choice

Americans still like the idea of new casinos because their existence can be a boon to public education and other needy causes. Voters tend to express less trepidation toward new casinos that are built in remote, nonresidential areas. Quite literally, these remotely stationed buildings are in no one's "backyard." When the same facilities are introduced to densely populated areas, however, the reception is less warm. Gaming experts warn that, as more betting facilities are built throughout the states, this may become an increasingly contentious issue.

Not in my Backyard (NIMBY) is an opposition by local residents to a proposal for a new development, because it is close to them

Whether the people of Saratoga Springs will have to deal with an unwanted gambling hall in their area remains to be seen. Senators Krueger and Tkaczyk are doing their best to make sure voters continue to have their say on the matter. While the senators' legislation is annoying to some, others muse that it is “democracy at work.” The question remains as to whether or not casino naysayers will get their way in the end.


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