Source: jasonsewell/Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: Gamblers — the obsessed and the occasional — must be drooling at the prospect of casino gambling coming to Coney Island, so they won’t have to schlep to Connecticut or Atlantic City to satisfy their cravings.

Some politicians and developers might also be salivating with visions of profits and revenues dancing in their heads to pump up state, city and personal assets, hoping a casino would be the spark needed to resurrect Coney Island to the distinction it had as a resort destination before it was transformed into a gaudy amusement area a century ago.

But additional gambling won’t be a certainty until voters have their say.

Legislation passed by state lawmakers included a Constitutional amendment allowing for up to seven casino-type gaming facilities statewide. A subsequent measure to stipulate where the new casinos may be located should be introduced and debated in the near future.

(Sheepshead Bites Poll: Should NY Legalize Gambling?)

Coney Island will likely be on that list, but it could be in turf war for the bid with the troubled Aqueduct race track, a few miles east of Brooklyn, which has also been mentioned as a potential site. Nevertheless, in order to amend the state Constitution, legislators must take up the measure and pass the amendment again next year before it earns a spot on the ballot for voters to approve in the 2013 general election.

That date also coincides with the exodus of Brooklyn’s head cheerleader, Borough President Marty Markowitz, who will be term-limited out office next year. But the beep’s still rooting for it to add to his legacy. In a press release, Markowitz said, “Casino gambling would bring jobs and revenue to potential locations in New York City, especially Coney Island, which is a natural.”

In craps, seven or 11 is a natural, but Coney Island may not be, despite Markowitz’s enthusiasm and the support of activists and elected officials.

In an article in the Brooklyn Paper earlier this year, the man considered the community’s unofficial mayor, Dick Zigun, said a gambling casino might “be the savior” for Coney Island as a major destination.

That same sort of optimism was echoed when the Brooklyn Cyclones came to Surf Avenue.

Politicians and local activists anticipated the arrival of a minor league baseball team as the beginning of a Coney Island renaissance.

Well, that never happened.

Cyclones fans arrive before the first pitch and may go on a thrill ride or to Nathan’s for pre-game eats, which are cheaper than inside the ballpark for the same food, but once the game ends, the crowd departs for communities miles from Coney Island. Secondary businesses and merchants get a temporary revenue boost, but the money spent for a few months is not enough to sustain the neighborhood year round.

Now, a similar optimism for gambling casinos has given some supporters a glimmer of hope that it will eventually transform south Brooklyn into Las Vegas East. Initially, a single casino could turn it into a gambling hot spot, but unless additional casinos open and Coney Island undergoes other drastic development, it is unlikely it would overtake Atlantic City, Connecticut, the Poconos or the possible rivalry of the Catskills, as a prime gambling resort.

If and when a Coney Island casino is approved, the area will also have to be rezoned because it is currently only regulated for hotels and an amusement area.

On top of that, essential planning will be crucial to reduce foreseeable problems.

Even though the Stillwell Avenue station is a hub for several subway lines, it doesn’t mean gamblers will use the system to get there. More than likely, they’ll travel by car, which would result in an increase in traffic volume and parking needs. The latter could easily be solved with parking lots that would also generate additional revenues.

More traffic also means more police assigned to the area. When the Cyclones play at home there is an obvious boost in police presence, but gambling doesn’t have a particular season, so until a pattern is established, the need for additional police will have to be determined.

Furthermore, law enforcement will have to step up to protect gamblers when they exit the casino. It may be optimistic to entice free-spending tourists once a casino opens, but the last thing anyone wants is for Coney Island to become a draw for connoisseur and novice criminals, who might congregate there for an opportunity to prey on gleeful winners as well as glum losers.

With the addition of a casino, Sea Gate residents will surely add more security to guarantee the safety of their gated community at the west end of Coney Island.

It’s often said that gambling is a victimless crime, but the compulsion afflicts in other ways. The gambler’s victims are families and friends. It may only be a few dollars here and there or a C-note or two once in a while, but the constant craving adds up and ultimately takes its toll.

It’s extremely rare for gamblers to ever win enough to cover years of losses. That’s why they call it gambling.

The only ones who will likely benefit from one or more casinos sprouting in Coney Island will be the realtors, the politicians and a select group, who’ll likely never place a bet or toss dice.

Let’s not get prematurely excited about a casino in Brooklyn. Indeed, if they build it, gamblers will surely come — but it won’t revitalize the neighborhood anytime soon.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Related posts

  • http://www.google.com/ F_a_b_a

    Just say no.

  • vintagejames

    The Cyclones play at night. After the game, there is usually no reason to stay in Coney Island. Perhaps daytime events would. But hotdogs aren’t worth more than $1.50 on a good day. Prices in Coney Island are a bit absurd.

    • Tinman

      If there’s no reason to stay in CI after a Cyclones game, then you must think there’s no reason to go there anytime. There are a variety of amusments to enjoy on a summer night after a game. They don’t stay because the area is still not very conducive to hanging around.

      • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

        Hmm, probably 20000 people stay around Friday nights for fireworks. You can barely make your way through the boardwalk crowd.

  • http://kibblesbits.wordpress.com/ Ann

    I moved from Brooklyn to this tiny town on the Mississippi River, a town that was drowning. It was seriously deteriorating.  Nothing to it.  In fact, that’s how I met my husband, who ran screaming from this town when he graduated HS.  Well, they got gambling in this town, and it really turned it around.  Now they have a vibrant economy, decent jobs, decent standard of living.  More companies were brought in, in various industries, with jobs for all skill levels.  The casinos are supportive of the community and are required to ‘donate’ money to pretty much every organization out there. As a bonus, at least there is a venue that bands I actually heard of play at.  Now, to be fair, I don’t like this town, and am moving next year, but it has nothing to do with the casinos. Without them, I don’t think that Dubuque would have survived the horrible downturn it had.  If interested, you can poke around the internet about the economic situation, the casinos, IBM, Hormel, John Deere, the colleges, Prudential, McGraw Hill, and so on.  It was a good anchor and is a cash cow.

    • anon.

      That’s nice, but Brooklyn isn’t Dubuque… situations don’t compare.

      • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

        How do u know a similar improvement wouldn’t happen???

    • NSF

      I can’t imagine a Brooklyn casino agreeing to donate to the community, unless it’s forced down their throat to get a license to set up in CI.

      • http://kibblesbits.wordpress.com/ Ann

        Actually, that’s exactly what is done here. They had to set up a foundation of sorts, and this foundation plows a lot of money into the community.  It was the first step in revitalizing our waterfront.  We’ve had more hotels built since then, more restaurants, added more festivals, and generally perked up because of this.  It started off with a boat and went from there.  Oh, how can I forget, we built a tremendous museum after all this, that recently expanded. And a waterpark.  As they say out here, “If you build it, they will come.”

  • NI51965

    Where are they going to build the casinos? On top of Nathans? I’m sure all the local residents will be thrilled to have a casino next door.

  • BrooklynBus

    They really coud have used it in the Catskills. I don’t believe it is a good idea in a heavily populated area. Compulsive gambling is a real problem and that will increase with gambling here. A few public service ads is not enough to stop the problem.

  • anon.

    It’s just something for those filled with hot air and no real sense of purpose to talk about.   

  • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

    Your view of CI (and the readers view) is way too pessimistic. CI is coming back, casino or no casino. the new amusement parks’ revenue has vastly exceeded expectations 2 years in a row. The businesses on the boardwalk are rebuilding. New businesses on Surf Avenue. Development of a park and the return of the Carousel by the Parachute Jump. Crowds at Nathan’s year round.

    I think the common opinion of CI is outdated by 10 years.

    Summer is fine in CI. What the city’s goal is is to make a place to go year ’round. That’s where casinos could provide the real momentum to propel CI even more. We need a catalyst. This is a great one.

    I hear ya on the social issues of gambling. But I say don’t deny CI a chance to continue its long-awaited comeback because of this. We know that gamblers find ways to gamble anyway. We’re not helping a gambler by NOT building a casino in CI .

    This is an absolutely critical time for CI. It’s do or die for 50 years. Right now. We’ve got to seize EVERY opportunity. For the first time in a lifetime, there is a growth momentum going on. It’s exciting. Let’s help it along, not find reasons not to.

    • anon.

      but where exactly are these casinos and hotels suppose to go? in between the public housing? trump village? or on the lots in front of the boardwalk?
      but even that aside, what about traffic? how is everyone who wants to frolic and gambol going to get here? belt parkway? train? car? bus? seriously, none of these are truly workable options. which leads to questions about the air quality and the quality of life in general of the existing neighborhood. increased sanitation.
      who is going to police this new environment? the current police force is just not prepared to handle it. sanitation. power. water. and on and on….   

      coney island is, as it stands with it’s current improvements, right now, maxed out. 
      casinos in ci is a fantasy. and it takes everyone’s interest off the current problems.
      (such as not enough police for the summer crowds, sanitation, etc.)

      there are other, more suitable places in the state for this. 

      • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

        Coney Island maxed out? This can only be spoken from someone who really isn’t that concerned with coney island.

         Nowhere to put it?  You obviously have never even SEEN Coney Island past the amusements (or never seen CI at all) or you wouldn’t say that. Here’s where you can put it:

        1. The spot of the old Thunderbold, just before the stadium. A huge huge lot.
        2. The lots owned by Joe Sitt, up from Nathans. Two huge lots which presently have flea markets.
        3. The skating rink, which is always rumored to close.
        4.  The old Washington Bathhouse and the huge parking lot accompanying it.
        5.   Multiple parking lots in the “30′s” (west), which are used to store buses.

           There’s so much unused land out there it ain’t even funny. To make the comment “nowhere to put it” means you haven’t even been there to even say. You probably don’t even know where these areas are that I’m referring to.

            Your comments about problems can apply to ANY neighborhood. Let’s NEVER develop anything because of “parking” problems, and “sanitation” problems.  Let’s let every neighborhood decay to the ground because of problems you can come up with if we redevelop. These comments are just illogical. People on this board use the same tired argument whenever there’s a proposal to put up anything in Sheepshead Bay: “parking” problems is the favorite.  I place them all under the Groucho Marrk “whatever it is I’m against it” tent.

           By the way, there’s plenty of police in Coney Island. Too much if you ask me, some of them seem to have nothing to do.

          I think people are making comments here who obviously have never even been to Coney Island, or went to Nathan’s once 20 years ago, and feel free to make comments about current development there.

          I also resent implications to just “give up” on Coney Island. I wonder if such people feel the same about their own neighborhood.

        • anon.

          “Coney Island maxed out? This can only be spoken from someone who really isn’t that concerned with coney island.”
          Do you normally presume in such a manner? Tsk….   But, since I do have the time right now, I’ll address you in the same manner.Yes, I am concerned and more importantly INFORMED about the area I actually live in.Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Coney Island (I consider that the immediate areas around me).I read local blogs (like here!), the news, and take the time to gather information before I spout off….   ” Nowhere to put it?  You obviously have never even SEEN Coney Island past the amusements (or never seen CI at all) or you wouldn’t say that.”

          Really? You know this how? Are you hiding in my pocket? Do you come with me when I go to Ruby’s on a Friday night to hang out with my friends? Or on my bike ride on the Boardwalk (from Brighton to Seagate) most mornings before sunrise. Are you with me when I do my volunteer work at Surf Solomon? 
          Of course that’s you, always waiting for me when I visit my Great Aunt at Shorefront Nursing? 
          Right? That is you isn’t it?  
          Same places that I’ve been going to for about 40 (something) years now. But I don’t know Coney Island at all past the rides….  

          ” Here’s where you can put it:1. The spot of the old Thunderbolt rollercoaster, just before the stadium.2. The lots owned by Joe Sitt, up from Nathans. Two huge lots which presently have flea markets.3. The skating rink, which is always rumored to close.
          4.  The old Washington Bathhouse and the huge parking lot accompanying it.
          5.   Multiple parking lots in the “30′s” (west), which are used to store buses.”Those lots are owned by corporations who have their own agenda. There are zoning laws in place. Your suggestion show that you have no idea of which you speak of.And by the way, it would have taken you but a moment to look up and find out for your self that Abe Stark (the skating rink) is open.  If you ever went by it yourself you would know this.  (my kids played hockey there for years).And those bus lots – obviously OWNED and in use. Yes to put buses. Where do you think they should put them? Are you offering your backyard? There are SCHOOLS that bus in kids.  Social centers, churchs, civic organizations, etc. There is no unclaimed, free to be used for whatever YOU want property. There are ZONING LAWS in place. For a reason. And you presume to say that I don’t have a clue? Okay…..    Your comments about problems can apply to ANY neighborhood. Let’s NEVER develop anything because of “parking” problems, and “sanitation” problems.  Let’s let every neighborhood decay to the ground because of problems you can come up with if we redevelop. These comments are just illogical. People on this board use the same tired argument whenever there’s a proposal to put up anything in Sheepshead Bay: “parking” problems is the favorite.  I place them all under the Groucho Marrk “whatever it is I’m against it” tent. ”  There’s so much unused land out there it ain’t even funny. To make the comment “nowhere to put it” means you haven’t even been there to even say. You probably don’t even know where these areas are that I’m referring to.”And you clearly have no idea that it’s alllllll owned by corporations, private owners, etc. It’s not just sitting there empty and unclaimed. And while it might be just sitting there all empty and waiting for your grand scheme, there are those pesky little things again to take into consideration…. Like the population across the street. Zoning laws. Traffic pattern studies. Sanitation. Pollution.  How any project of that magnanitude would affect the people living there, the ecology (you did notice the beach and water, right?) and just about every service that a major city provides to it’s people.   And you’ve discounted all of it as inconsequential to what you believe to be true based on nothing other then your fantasy of what Coney Island should be. Oh, and I know nothing about this area….   Right now I question that you even go there for anything other then a hot dog occasionally. I don’t think we’ll ever see you in the community garden.  You do know where they are, don’t you?   “Your comments about problems can apply to ANY neighborhood. Let’s NEVER develop anything because of “parking” problems, and “sanitation” problems.  Let’s let every neighborhood decay to the ground because of problems you can come up with if we redevelop. These comments are just illogical. People on this board use the same tired argument whenever there’s a proposal to put up anything in Sheepshead Bay: “parking” problems is the favorite.  I place them all under the Groucho Marrk “whatever it is I’m against it” tent. “And I’m putting you in the same category that Forest Gump’s mother would put you in…. Discounting issues of sanitation alone is enough to really just make me discount you as someone who is concerned (no matter what you claim) about their neighborhood. What you dismiss as illogical shows that you have no real idea of what it takes to run a city.  It’s nice that your a Grouch MARX fan (which I also doubt), but if you were you would get the sarcasm of ‘a child of five would understand, someone fetch me a child of five’!  ”  By the way, there’s plenty of police in Coney Island. Too much if you ask me, some of them seem to have nothing to do.”Thus proving that you get a hot dog and stand around….   “I think people are making comments here who obviously have never even been to Coney Island, or went to Nathan’s once 20 years ago, and feel free to make comments about current development there.  I also resent implications to just “give up” on Coney Island. I wonder if such people feel the same about their own neighborhood.”The only thing to have come out of your posting is that you’ve convinced me that you are not conversant in anything other then what you perceive to be ‘true’ and it’s all just conjecture and opinion.  And that’s fine. But, it’s also sad.  You sit in front of the very technology that allows you to give voice to your (narrow minded, snide) opinion, and yet you never take the time to use the same technology to do even a little research before you go spouting off on a subject that you seemingly care about but know nothing about really.Unlike you, because I care, because I am a part of the voice of the people I take the time to LEARN and RESEARCH. I am an active part of what goes on around me. As presumptuous as it was of you to point a finger at me to tell me I know nothing about the situation in my own back yard, I will point that finger right back and ask you to put down the hot dog and take a walk… and keep your eyes open.  I think you’ll be very surprised at what you see.You might even see the activists that are trying to get their own neighborhood improved for their families. Not for someday/somebody’s dream casino’s that they neither want nor need.See ya tonight at Peggy O’Neill’s?  (it’s in Coney Island btw).S

    • BrooklynBus

      It will definitely come back but maybe not within our lifetimes. Times Square finally came back but it took 50 years for it to do so!

    • Bigfish

      I agree they should absolutely build casinos in Coney Island, what a great place to have casinos.

  • TITANIUMDX

    Three things need to be legalized, gambing, prostitution, and medical marijuana just like in california. This will greatly help the economy.

    • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

      Not sure why prostitution is illegal, who is the victim..

      I think it’s interesting that many against the casino are probably in favor of pot legalization…. Guess they smoke but don’t gamble. They’ll recite statistics on gambling woes but would ignore similar stats re marijuana.

  • Pingback: Thursday Blogwrap – insiderater.com

  • Fnordoom

    I was born and raised in Coney, people were saying the same things about the ballpark that they then said about the hotels that they are now saying about the casino (both good and bad), bottom line is the Island of Coney is more than just a 10 square block area of amusements, it’s also a neighborhood full of several different communities and until a conscious effort is made to clean up and revitalize the residential areas then nothing that is done in the amusement park will ever make a real impact on the island. When keyspan opened did it get rid of the prostitutes and junkies that used to hangout at Surf from 19th – 21st streets? Sure. Did it do ANYTHING for us living in gravesend and searise projects on neptune from 30-35th streets? NO. 
    And i mean that in both a positive and negative fashion. The only difference was that now you had to go down a couple extra blocks for a $5 BJ or bag of crack . It made absolutely no real quality of life impact what-so-ever. The only impact it made was as a conversation piece for people who are not residents of coney island just like this casino business is now doing.
    It’s pretty funny actually, the people who would be impacted the least by this are the ones who have the loudest opinions, the ones who would be actually affected are too busy just trying to survive to care. God bless America.

    • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

      You’re right. Casinos aren’t a fantasy solution to all problems. It will help a big one though – revenue for the city.  And like I wrote at length above, it continues the momentum of CI redevelopment, something I’ve waited for since I moved there in 1966, and since I consider CI-Brighton-SBay the same neighborhood, I consider that I still live there.

  • Barkingspider07

    Nobody has to schlep to NJ or CT.  Let them schlep to Aquaduct and keep this garbage out of our yard – either that, or bring back the gambling boat.

    • Tinman

      There’s no casino gambling at the Big A though it may satisfy the craving for some. The gaming facility is a racino with video slots and other electronic games. Its referred to as the Aqueduct casino, but there are no table games and no dealers.

  • Barkingspider07

    Yeah – and really improve our neighborhood.  Don’t we have enough going on here now?  No?  OK – bring in more junkies and garbage.

  • Pingback: Sistemas de Ruleta » Blog Archive » Op-Ed: Will Casino Gambling Revitalize Coney Island …

  • Nyckat

    I lived (and moved) in Mississippi when the casinos moved in right across the street from my home.  Beautiful old antibellum homes- for quite some time we listened to the building- lost our water view- and then BOOM- casinos in full force glaring lights 24/7 traffic out of this world- broke guys sleeping on the porch swing. Stay at home moms spending grocery money- and guys missing work- joy of joys. The best thing I can say was yes, it did help employment- and I bought ALOT of really expensive jewelry for next to nothing- and a 2 year old car for 500$$ Pawn shoppes were filled to the brim, and payed out way less than the already reduced price they normally paid..so there is good and bad- just expect the crime rate to jump- everyone needs just another 20 bucks so they can hit that jackpot!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Sure, why not. Coney Island got started in the entertainment business with gambling. You could play and win at Mike Norton’s casino, and get rolled when you left by Mike Norton’s thugs. The best kind of people went there of course, and the casinos today will bring the same sterling examples of humanity. The combination of casinos and luxury hotels makes me laugh. Add the family oriented amusement parks and we’ll have the whole of humanity mixing it up together.

  • Richard Peters

    It was proposed in the early 80,s It was a good idea then and it,s a good idea now.