Genting Group's multibillion-dollar wager on a huge convention center in Queens is really not that risky a bet for the operators of the state's newest racino at Aqueduct Racetrack. But it could be a poor one for our area if Albany doesn't incorporate long-term plans and funding for the future development of Belmont Park and the desire of Southhampton's Shinnecock Nation to open a tribal casino as part of a comprehensive regional plan.
The gamble by Genting, an international gaming giant, is that 20 months from now, the odds will be heavily in Aqueduct's favor to win one of seven licenses to operate a Las Vegas-style casino if New Yorkers approve a change to the state constitution.
Newsday editorialized in support of that change last week after the State Legislature started the process by passing for the first time a proposed amendment to eliminate the ban against gambling in the state constitution. If lawmakers pass it again next year, voters will get the final say on Election Day in 2013. If voters approve, an auction for the licenses would follow.
Commercial gambling has expanded to 15 states and Indian tribal gaming is established in 28 states. The estimates are that New York can capture $2 billion to $3 billion of revenue that is now wagered elsewhere. Furthermore, those seven casinos could drive economic development in several regions; for example, revitalizing the Catskills as a resort destination. Our support for expanded gaming, however, is contingent on a commitment by the state to combat gambling's social ills.
In the coming weeks, our "High Stakes Bet" editorial series will focus on what should be done about reimagining Belmont Park and the surrounding Elmont community. While horse racing should continue there, that sport won't thrive without the accompaniment of a new venture, which could include a casino for the Shinnecock Nation or a soccer stadium.
There are still cards to be dealt.