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Casino Opponent Discusses Drawbacks of Expansion

David Blankenhorn hopes people vote no on a statewide casino expansion referendum in November.
New York state voters will have their say on whether there should be non-Indian casinos in the state. A referendum on the ballot in November seeks to authorize several new Upstate casinos. The governor is promoting the measure as a way to create jobs, promote tourism and bring in revenue to the state. The new casinos would not be in the Rochester region, which is under the Seneca Nation's exclusivity contract with the state.

David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute of the American Family helped write a report opposing this expansion of casino gambling. It lists 31 reasons why casinos hurt people and communities. Former Rochester mayor William Johnson is among those who worked on the document.

During an appearance on News 8 First at 4, Blankenhorn said regional casinos popping up across the country are different from the casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. He said people go to the big resorts from long distances and stay a few days.

"The regional casinos, most people who go to these casinos live within a short distance. They come home at night and sleep in their own bed. They might go two or three times a week instead of once a year or once a decade," Blankenhorn said.

That could create problem gamblers. Blankenhron said casinos promote inequality.

"It takes from the have-nots and gives to the haves. It aggravates inequality. It's the opposite of progressive," said Blankenhorn. "The people that go to the casinos most often, put their money in slot machines, who are they? They're retirees. They're lower-wage workers. They're minorities. They're people who go and get fleeced by these slot machines. What we're saying is, that's the way we want to raise money for New York State? That's an ethical way to bring money into the state?"

News 8 pointed out to Blankenhorn a Center for Governmental Research study found casinos do create jobs.

"If New York State went into the cigarette business, that would create jobs. If it went into the methamphetamine business, people would work in meth labs, too," Blankenhorn said. "Any activity the state puts money into will stimulate the economy. Let's stimulate good things. Let's stimulate things that help people. Let's stimulate things that create wealth."

Is it the government's job to police whether people want to gamble?

"It's not the government's job to control what they do. It is the government's job not to encourage them to do it," Blankenhorn said. "When you build a casino in someone's neighborhood and say it's a patriotic thing to do to go to your neighborhood casino and put your money in the slot machine and that will help little Johnny go to school and the lieutenant governor and the governor goes around saying this is a wonderful thing...it's a terrible thing."

The report sites the addictive nature of slot machines, which are the most prevalent form of gambling at regional casinos. The report claims casinos can hurt neighboring businesses. 

To watch Blankenhorn's interview, click on the video above. To read the anti-casino report, click here.
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