It looks like the only safe bet at the Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.’s new video-lottery casino is that it will be business as usual when it comes to the politically connected getting the jobs.
The Suffolk OTB is slated to open its slot parlor at the Islandia Marriott hotel next month, starting with 260 machines but eventually expanding to 1,000. Although the operation will be run by a private casino company, many employees will be on the OTB payroll. That will mean state pensions and health benefits, and fierce competition for the positions as attendants, cashiers and custodians, about 75 at first but as many as 200 later. That means patronage.
Suffolk County Democratic Party chairman Rich Schaffer has reached out to town political leaders to have them send resumes of interested applicants, so he can forward them on. Casino operator Delaware North has promised such candidates interviews, but says it will hire based on qualifications. And another 100 or so employees in food service will work directly for Delaware North and won’t get state benefits.
Lots of people in all walks of life get shots at jobs because of people they know. When it comes to working for the government, these relationships are often political. It’s tempting to say that as long as these employees are qualified and perform the work , it doesn’t matter that they had the inside track. But it does matter, because it leaves the impression that loyalty to the right political machine is necessary to get a crack at these jobs, and that’s wrong. Even worse, political protection can allow an employee to keep the job when he or she doesn’t perform the work. When public jobs come open, especially blue-collar ones with very good benefits, everyone ought to have the same shot at them. — The editorial board