Converting racetrack casinos will grow jobs

A roulette table in a casino
A roulette table in a casino
Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed three new gaming licenses in New York.

Converting racetrack casinos will grow jobs

The governor’s proposal would help communities of color recover from the recession.
February 7, 2021

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, just a few days ago, presented New Yorkers with his vision to build a new future together. After witnessing the devastating impact of COVID-19, that’s the type of thinking this state needs – in order to get back on our feet, we need bold ideas. And that is especially true if we’re going to be serious about supporting minorities in New York who are living through compounding crises, which are threatening their physical, mental and financial health due to longstanding racial inequalities.

Unless we act fast, the challenges that our communities face will become more dire and the damage much harder to reverse.

One of the ideas recently brought to my attention is Cuomo’s idea to accept proposals for three new gaming licenses in New York, which could pave the way for Resorts World New York City and Empire City in Yonkers to become full casinos with live table games and sports betting. Though I’m hardly suggesting gaming alone is the answer to the COVID-19 economic devastation, it is a good option already on the table.

Here’s why that’s critical: in less than a year, this plan would empower these two operators to create and protect thousands of good-paying union jobs, generate billions of dollars in revenue, including for the public schools, and drive significant economic activity in the surrounding New York City and Yonkers communities.

And here’s why time is of the essence to create that type of economic environment: A recent study published by the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection reported, “Hispanic residents reported experiencing income loss with the greatest frequency (68 percent), followed by Black residents (67 percent), Asian residents (48 percent), and White residents (45 percent).”

We hear often the idea of shovel-ready jobs, that are, in actuality, usually years away from coming to fruition. And we are undoubtedly going to hear about grand proposals, projects, and plans that are unlikely going to deliver on their promise.

Right now, Hispanic and Black residents do not have the luxury of waiting for four years while new casinos might be built. They need jobs and they need jobs now. New York cannot afford to wait for four years while new casinos might be built to start to close the budget gap so that critical services aren’t sacrificed during a time when they are most needed. Small businesses who would benefit from an increase in the economic activity that a full casino would help bring cannot afford to wait for four years while new casinos might be built.

The time is now, and the infrastructure is already in place.

In fact, Spectrum Gaming Group just published a report that echoed this sentiment, “the potential evolution of VLT facilities to seek commercial casino licenses in a competitive bidding process would, if successful, open employment opportunities in table games at an early date, during a period of relatively severe unemployment.”

The governor’s proposal opens the door to an opportunity to close the racial economic gap, create jobs, and generate revenue at a time when it’s most needed. And Resorts World, where 83% of its employees are people of color, is well-positioned to deliver on the vision as it has done in the past.

That’s a point that cannot be understated.

We must value those who have taken the time to build strong relationships and lasting partnerships with community organizations, those who use their scale for good, and those who can be trusted to help New York build a better future together. And most of the New York casinos have supported my advocacy organization the National Action Network as well as other community groups. Despite the fact I advocated years ago for a black-owned casino, I must say that Resorts World have been consistent in working with local Queens groups and others around economic and job opportunities.

Resorts World, which has generated $3 billion for New York’s public schools since 2011, has proven to be a responsible steward and good community partner. As an economic anchor in Queens, it understands its responsibility to the employees, to its neighbors, and to taxpayers, it has delivered on the promises they have made, and has shown a commitment to playing a key role in New York’s recovery. That’s the type of employer that we should empower to grow because their prosperity is our prosperity.

I have fought for decades for the betterment of Black and Brown New Yorkers and have seen our communities suffer and struggle to rebound during the worst of times. The compounding crises we now face are unprecedented and we need action now to address them.

It begins by getting our communities back to work as soon as possible with jobs that pay, protect and allow the most vulnerable to prosper.

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The Rev. Al Sharpton
is president of the National Action Network.