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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Siting Without Representation

 - I wrote about some of the weekend's racing action over at the TimeformUS blog, here and here

 - With the New York casino siting process still in its formative stages - and with other pressing matters in the area - Saratoga Springs residents and other affected citizens in the 113th Assembly District do not currently have a representative in the State Assembly; as reported by Dennis Yusko in the Albany Times-Union.  Seems as if Governor Cuomo has not seen fit to call a special election to fill the seat vacated when the Republican Rep. Tony Jordan resigned for another position.  Nor for ten other vacant seats.

More than 1.2 million New Yorkers are missing legislators, and the open seat in the 113th District has deprived its more than 83,000 registered voters of an advocate on important budget issues, education and where to place casino resorts, candidates and government advocacy groups say.
"It's seems like every week there's another open seat, given the travails of our friends in the Legislature," Cuomo said.
Oh, that governor, what a wit.  Should Cuomo not call for an election, the seat would go unfilled until November, which would be after the "early fall," which is when, we're told, the sites and the operators will be announced.  Given that both the leading Democrat and Republican candidates for the seat support the bill introduced in the Senate that would give local communities the right to vote on a casino being located there, would it be too cynical to suggest that the governor is in no special rush to fill the seat for the 113th A.D?

 - Back to the fun and games in Massachusetts.  I'd mentioned that, in the backdrop of all this, is a movement to repeal the casino law.  Once largely dismissed as the whimsical campaign of a few antigambling zealots [Boston Globe], the repeal movement has hired a respected team of lawyers to fight to get a measure on the ballot in November.  They have already gathered the 68,911 signatures required to do so.  However, Attorney General Martha Coakley.....yes, that Martha Coakley....ruled that the repeal petition was unconstitutional, on these grounds:
 ...the repeal would “impair the implied contracts between the commission and gaming license applicants” and illegally take those contract rights without compensation. [Boston Globe]
One of the repeal group's lawyers responded to Ms. Coakley's "takings" theory.
Witherby said litigation over the 2008 ballot effort to ban live dog racing in Massachusetts applies to the current lawsuit over the question to ban casinos.  “If the owner of a dog track that has been licensed for decades can’t prevent the people from voting to outlaw dog racing, it’s hard to see why mere applicants for a license should be able to prevent the people from voting on casino gambling."
So, this fight will play out in the Supreme Judicial Court after the repeal group appealed the AG's decision.  And no surprise that the gambling companies plan to intervene in an effort to quash the appeal.  (Though they apparently won't have to be concerned about losing their licensing fee of $85 million each.)

Separately, in an editorial, the Globe meticulously lays out the pertinent facts surrounding the (separate) contest for the one slots-only parlor that is the subject of a three-way bidding war.  You might be interested to read its explanation as to why it doesn't care for two of the proposals....though it's not pleasant.
Both the Raynham and Plainville plans brag of the boost that they would deliver to the ailing horsemen. At Plainville, Penn National promises that slot-machine revenue would subsidize harness racing, keeping the track alive. The former dog track at Raynham is too small to host horse racing, but Carney says he will reopen another track that he owns in Brockton for harness racing if he’s granted the slots license.
The sinking popularity of horse racing threatens the livelihoods of veterinarians, blacksmiths, breeders, and trainers. For them, and the sport’s remaining fans, it’s a tragedy. But faced with any industry in decline — whether it’s horse racing or typewriters — the state should work to ensure new opportunities for affected workers, rather than keeping an unsustainable business on life support indefinitely.

The gambling legislation, unfortunately, gives the horse tracks a permanent bailout. The law devotes a chunk of the slot parlor revenue, plus a share of the initial license fee, to fatten horse racing purses. That’s more than enough state aid: Combining the slot license with a horse track will only take more dollars that could be used for other purposes.

While Raynham and Plainville boast of their lifeline for horses, Leominster has a better strategy. It promises to give an annual grant to a UMass program that supports startup medical device companies, a growing sector of the high-tech economy with realistic prospects for Worcester County and beyond. [Boston Globe]
We can argue jobs, jobs, jobs, and how the industry sustains and creates them.  But arguments like this are surely resonant, coherent, and fair.  Of all the sound business reasons that this industry needs to find ways to stand on its own without revenue from slots - however one wants to characterize them - eliminating these arguments from the conversation is paramount. Some states may be running surpluses now.  But that won't always be the case; and gambling revenues directed towards horse racing will continue to be in play as long as racing remains dependent on them.


jk said...

Cuomo can play the Albany game as good as anyone ever has. He is the ultimate insider which destroys any credibility he claims to have as a reformer.

Resorts World, which is minting money, just had a round of layoffs so the "casino job growth" theme holds no water imo.

Anonymous said...

Casinos are merely biding their time awaiting their real prize: table games approval.

And you still wonder why Cuomo refused to do anything to his political cronies involved in the Aqueduct Entertainment bid-rigging casino scam? It might have sent the wrong message to "the right people," that politicians couldn't be bought. Cuomo didn't want to create the wrong illusion, did he? He knew what was at stake, and what was most impportant to him.