Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sharing Casino Wealth in Upstate New York

I'm generally opposed to casinos in New York State. Gambling concerns, in general, are inherently predatory and designed to consolidate wealth from many into few hands, which they do very efficiently. They come with associated social ills that tax the communities in regions where they reside. Their benefits to municipalities, existing business, taxpayers, job-seekers and workers are frequently overstated.

However, in New York, they seem to be a reality. There's a land-grab-money-rush-gold-snarfing thing going on in Orange and Sullivan counties that's not going to stop until something is built. And some of the proposals look like they might have fun elements. Who am I to say no? (I mean, I said no, when I voted against the proposal, but it still passed.)

So how do you mitigate the harm that may arise from one of these massive projects being built near economically sensitive cities or in a depressed region? How do you work to ensure that some benefits do accrue?

Some suggestions come to mind, like: Diversify the project so it's not totally gambling-centric. Make use of existing or traditional recreational areas that have some infrastructure to support the new facility. Site it reasonably close to New York City so that it is more likely to draw tourists from out of state instead of preying on locals. Require a high minimum wage for all jobs, good benefits, and similar requirements from subcontractors.

And, close to my heart, insist on New York State procurement. Not just for the construction and materials, and later for the employees, but also for the ongoing provisioning of the bars, hotels, restaurants, spas, recreational facilities, kitchens, gaming centers, cleaning supply closets, and everything else.

I used a popular search engine and my own experience to find some likely suppliers of value-added goods that are either manufactured in or largely sourced from within New York State. (Note that this list doesn't include farm vegetable produce, which is a whole other category that should be locally sourced.) While some of these concerns are boutique or small-scale producers, their products are thus all the more "New York," and a guaranteed volume of business from a casino customer could enable them to diversify their customer base and grow further. There are doubtless hundreds or thousands more.

Bostree Porcelain, Sugarloaf NY
Malfatti Glass, Beacon NY
Newburgh Brewery, Newburgh NY
Black Dirt Distillery, Warwick NY
Ulster Linen, Islip NY
Tuthilltown Spirits, Gardiner NY
Edgwick Farm, Cornwall NY
Stickley Furniture, Manlius NY
Crowley Foods, Lafargeville NY
Chobani Yogurt, New Berlin NY
Liberty Tabletop, Sherrill NY
You know they're going to have bottled water available. New York has decent water.

But take it further. What about tech assets? Server space? What about business services? Website development, marketing, design, legal services, even custom typography? How about energy? How much can be drawn from renewables generated in New York State? (And, off-topic, require some electric car charging stationsmaybe a Tesla supercharger.)

All of these could be sourced from within the Empire State north of the Bronx, to circulate some of the revenue back into economies that need it, even those far from the specific casino sites. That's how casinos can truly create jobs, allowing businesses to get established and scale to serve other in- and out-of-state markets, creating a positive cash flow into upstate New York's manufacturing, service, renewable energy, tech, and distribution sectors.

Any evaluation of proposals should give preference toor requireNew York State procurement commitments from these large proposed projects.


1 comment:

Tom Bregman said...

Let's continue this conversation at 2A.