The Nassau Hub, which is being considered a casino site, is...

The Nassau Hub, which is being considered a casino site, is not served by public transit and thousands more cars on Hempstead Turnpike would drastically increase traffic and pollution. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

As New York State considers where to site three downstate casinos, money is already being spent to persuade Nassau County residents to support a casino in the area surrounding Nassau Coliseum known as the Nassau Hub. Las Vegas Sands recently announced that it will bid to build such a casino.

As president of Hofstra University, I oppose siting a casino at the Hub, just as my predecessor Stuart Rabinowitz did in 2010, when a much smaller casino was proposed there. This is not a new idea, but it is still a bad idea.

Back then, Rabinowitz asked in a Newsday op-ed "whether we continue to advocate for … smart growth and economic development, or settle for the short-term revenue, and long-term problems, of a casino?" He recognized the potential of the Hub, describing it as "one of the best hopes for our region's economic future."

There are about 40,000 students in the Hub neighborhood, ranging from preschool to postgraduate. Research supporting Rabinowitz’s argument against siting a casino within close range of so many young people has only grown. A 2021 study in the Journal of Addiction & Addictive Disorders, for example, concludes that “the presence of casinos nearby to campus can increase problematic gambling.” Recent studies on college students point to growing problems with mental health and addiction, exacerbated by the pandemic. A casino at the Hub would create unacceptable risks to this population.

Casinos are sold as sources of revenue for municipalities and local organizations, and job creation for an underserved local workforce. Yet, the result is often not promised revenue, but further strain on already overburdened social service and law enforcement institutions. According to a 2014 study by the Research Institute on Addictions at the University of Buffalo, siting a casino is particularly dangerous in historically disadvantaged communities with stressed socio-economic conditions.

And imagine the traffic. The Hub is not served by rail, is not near an airport, and has minimal public bus service. Thousands more cars on Hempstead Turnpike would drastically increase traffic and pollution. The Meadowbrook and the Northern State parkways are daily clogged with commuters and shoppers at Roosevelt Field Mall, and they do not accommodate buses, a common way gamblers travel to casinos. With a casino at the Hub, Garden City, Westbury and other local villages will be coping with daily caravans of buses passing through their neighborhoods.

Moreover, Sands is making promises less than one year after it sold the last of its U.S. casinos, with the stated intention of focusing on Asia, where it owns casinos in Macao and Singapore. Does Sands intend to stick around and fulfill the promises it is making today?

Hofstra has a vested interest in our community’s success. The Hub offers an opportunity for mixed-use development that could create economic opportunity through research, innovation and office space, and answer Gov. Kathy Hochul's call to build more affordable housing on Long Island. For Hofstra and the surrounding neighborhoods — Hempstead, Uniondale, Garden City, Westbury and East Meadow — there is real promise at the Hub if we use it to invest in the future.

A casino at the Hub is not about the future, and it would not be an engine for economic and social prosperity. It would be dangerous for adjoining neighborhoods, and create a nightmare of traffic and pollution, not to mention anti-social behaviors that often crop up around casinos.

There remains the possibility for positive, lasting change at the Hub that will serve, rather than deplete, our community. Hofstra University is ready and eager to support that future.

This guest essay reflects the views of Hofstra University President Susan Poser.

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