Archive for the tag 'gambling'

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten/Flickr

The following is a press release from the offices of State Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

A bill introduced by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) to commission a comprehensive study on the social impact of problem gambling has gained a valuable sponsor in the Senate and was cited during expert testimony at a New York State Gaming Commission Forum today in Albany.

The legislation (A.7836), which authorizes and directs the commissioner of mental health to commission a statewide evaluation regarding the extent of legal and illegal gambling by New York state residents, has attracted the sponsorship of Senator Marty Golden and on April 1 was reported to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

James Maney, Executive Director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, gave the bill a positive mention this morning during the forum on “Addressing Problem Gambling in the Era of Expanded Gaming.”

According to Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, who is Chairman of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the purpose of this bill is to mitigate the social costs related to problem gambling.

A survey conducted by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) found that five percent of adults, or 668,000 individuals, exhibited problem gambling behaviors within the past year. Another survey of seventh through 12th grade students revealed that 10 percent, or 140,000 students, showed signs of problem gambling in the past 12 months and another 10 percent of those students were in need of treatment for problem gambling. Of those students in the survey who were identified as in need of chemical dependency treatment, 45 percent were at risk or in need of treatment for problem gambling.

Research has found that proximity to casinos increases the rate of problem gambling among the local population, said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission showed that casinos within a 50-mile radius of an individual’s home can double the prevalence of problem gambling.

The Buffalo Research Institute on Addiction, in its own study, claimed that having a casino within 10 miles of a home has a significant effect on problem gambling. Currently, New York State has five casinos operated by Native Americans and nine independently operated racinos; combined they operate approximately 29,000 electronic gambling machines, which is more than any state in the Northeast or Midwest. New York continues to expand its existing gaming market and if non-tribal casino gaming is legalized, permitting up to seven new casinos to be established, the risk of more individuals developing a gambling problem could increase significantly.

“While it is important that New York State continue to conduct surveys that determine the prevalence of problem gambling and illustrate the need for prevention and treatment services, additional research that measures the social impact of problem gambling is sorely needed,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. Directing such research would allow the state to pinpoint which social costs associated with problem gambling are most predominant among New York’s identified problem gamblers and have also been detected in communities impacted by the presence of a casino, he noted.

“By having this information, New York State and its public officials will be able to develop a comprehensive plan comprising precise policies and regulations that aim to mitigate the social costs related to problem gambling,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. The information would also enable the problem gambling service providers and the casino industry to implement strategies and interventions that target the specific problem gambling needs of each local community and its citizens, he said.

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

The following is an unaltered press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chairman of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, commended Governor Cuomo for signing into law a bill he sponsored (A.2270A) requiring requires gaming venues to post information about compulsive gambling support services near every entrance and exit.

“With nearly one million compulsive gamblers throughout New York State, this legislation will help to raise awareness on how to access support and services for problem gambling,” said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, whose committee has jurisdiction over compulsive gambling.

New York, along with most states that allow gambling, require that signage providing a 24-hour hotline number and other support services for problem gamblers be posted prominently in all gaming facilities. But the manner in which signs are posted is often inconsistent and arbitrary, according to the lawmaker.

“These signs are widely accepted as an appropriate tool to promote responsible gaming, yet the New York State Council on Problem Gambling says that in 2011 there were just 1,449 calls to the helpline. That means very few New Yorkers with compulsive gambling problems are receiving the help that’s available to them,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

“I am pleased that the Governor has signed this legislation. It is paramount that we consider the toll these new gaming facilities will take on New Yorkers with gambling addictions. Allocating money to problem gambling prevention and treatment programs is not an expense, but rather an investment in a better New York,” he said.

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

A new poll suggests that a majority of New York City residents support changing the amendment to add seven new casinos somewhere in New York State, but don’t want to see it in the five boroughs, the New York Times reports.

The poll, conducted by the New York Times/Siena College, found that six in 10 likely New York City voters said they would vote for the amendment, when asked using the rosy, skewed language that highlights unproven benefits of casino gambling, such as job growth and funding for education. But 50 percent were opposed to seeing a full-scale casino in New York City, with only 42 percent in favor.

The ballot measure that would amend the constitution will lead to three new Las Vegas-style casinos to be created upstate as part of “first phase.” The second phase, which will roll out seven years later, will see four more casinos – at unspecified locations. Most observers believe a New York City casino is likely.

The poll also found that voters are fairly well informed about both the positives and the drawbacks of expanded casino gambling:

In the new poll, New York City residents said they expected both positive and negative effects from expanded casino gambling.

Seven in 10 said they thought it was quite likely that the casinos would bring in significant new revenue for government.

“Just in my apartment building alone, twice a month they have buses come and take people to Atlantic City,” Albert Perrotto, 55, from Far Rockaway, Queens, said in a follow-up interview. “If they take them to upstate New York instead, it would be a shorter ride, and people would go upstate, and the revenue would come here instead. It makes a lot of sense to me.”

At the same time, six in 10 city residents said they thought it was most likely that new casinos would increase societal problems such as crime and compulsive gambling

Quin Stratton, 23, who works for a credit-card processing center and lives in the Bronx, said she supported the amendment but would not want to see a full-scale casino developed in New York City. “If it’s in the city, it will attract people who don’t have a lot of money, and they will blow their whole paycheck,” she said.

“If the casinos are upstate, or far away, it’s harder,” Ms. Stratton added. “They would have to actually get into a car and would have to make that decision. If it’s in the city, then someone who gets off work will walk by and say, ‘Hey it’s a casino!’ and blow everything they just made.”

Still, the numbers are a good sign for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is closely linked with the initiative. As much as 40 percent of the state’s voters live in New York City, and the five boroughs are expected to have higher turnout due to the mayoral elections.

Good government advocates, including the Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause NY, continue to oppose the language and politicking of the ballot measure, although a lawsuit to have it reworded has failed.

A Times Union report notes that PIRG is urging media to use neutral language when describing the proposal. Common Cause NY, meanwhile, has put out a bulletin pulling back the veil on the larged pro-casino PAC – NY Jobs Now – which is funded almost entirely by gambling companies.

Source: Openmarket.org

Source: Openmarket.org

A State Supreme Court judge struck down a suit that sought to change the language on an upcoming November ballot measure expanding legalized gambling in New York. The New York Times is reporting that Judge Richard Platkin ruled that the case was “lacking in legal merit.”

Earlier in the month, we reported that the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) joined the legal fight to block the ballot. The fight was spearheaded by Brooklyn-based bankruptcy lawyer Eric Synder. Synder, NYPIRG and other groups had argued that the language surrounding the casino ballot measure was biased, presenting the issue as a no-brainer for voters, promising jobs and economic growth. The Times explained why Judge Platkin ruled against Synder:

In dismissing the case, though, Justice Platkin said Mr. Snyder’s suit, filed on Oct. 1, had come after the statute of limitations for such ballot-language challenges had passed. (Such challenges are limited to a 14-day window after a referendum’s final day to be certified; this year, that deadline was Aug. 19.)

And while Mr. Snyder had argued that he was not aware of the language at that point, and that the Board of Elections did not post the referendum to its Web site until Aug. 23, Justice Platkin seemed unimpressed. “The petition/complaint would still be untimely,” he wrote in his decision.

While the Times reported that Synder was planning to continue his legal battle, Politics on the Hudson reported that Synder is now giving up his fight.

“Unfortunately, I just don’t think the timing is there,” Synder said in a radio interview.

With the ballot language now in place, voters will be presented with a rosy, one-sided pro-gambling message. As we previously reported, a Siena College poll found that support for the ballot increased nine percentage points when shown the controversial language.

Again, it is worth noting that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign has received $361,000 from powerful gambling interests from 2011 to July of 2013 and that politicians in Albany took in over $1 million from the same groups in that time.

Source: Jamie Adams via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Jamie Adams via Wikimedia Commons

The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) is joining the legal battle to get the flowery pro-casino language on an upcoming November ballot changed. The New York Post is reporting that NYPIRG filed a brief arguing that the language on the ballot should be presented in a neutral light.

When we last reported on the upcoming ballot that would expand legalized gambling in the state of New York and call for the construction of seven Las Vegas-style casinos, we pointed to a study conducted by the Institute for American Values that found that legalizing gambling does more economic harm than good. This report directly contrasts the language that is slated to be presented with the ballot, which describes the casino referendum as an economic slam dunk for the state, schools and job creation. We also reported that politicians in Albany and Governor Andrew Cuomo had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from powerful gambling interests for their campaigns.

The spin-laden language was unveiled in September, asking voters if they would permit casinos for the “purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated.” No one has taken credit for crafting the language, and no one in a leadership position has attempted to change it. Early polling comparing this language to a more neutral one shows that a majority of voters support the amendment when written in this language, but not the more neutral version.

The Post described the specific nature of NYPIRG’s complaints about the casino measure:

In a brief for the court, the New York Public Interest Research Group said the final language of the Nov. 5 ballot issue to allow casinos off Indian land should be neutral so that voters can make a decision based on facts, as set out in the state constitution.

Cuomo and legislative leaders added glowing language to the referendum, promising jobs, tax breaks and more school aid, all of which are disputed by some academics and critics. NYPIRG notes in its brief that none of the potential drawbacks from casinos, like crime and gambling addiction, is mentioned.

NYPIRG’s opposition to the referendum language is joined by other groups including the Coalition Against Casino Gambling in New York. Director Stephen Shafer told the Post that benefits promised by the language in the legislation were bogus.

“The rosy language of the reworded amendment for the ballot is a brazen effort to bias the vote. This was a disgrace,” Shafer said.

Source: Rob Bourdon via Flickr

Source: Rob Bourdon via Flickr

The effort to pass a measure that would expand legalized gambling in New York State and see the construction of seven casinos is receiving a huge push from legislators and lobbyists. Despite the momentum, opponents of the measure continue to uncover new data suggesting the bill might not bring the economic boon promised and that politicians have already enriched their campaigns in fast-tracking the legislation from major gambling interests.

Earlier in the month, we reported that the casino ballot measure had majority support among voters, especially after the bill was presented to voters in glowing language that made the legislation seem like a no-brainer. The language surrounding the measure promises job growth, lower taxes and aid to schools. Times Union is reporting on a study put out by the Institute for American Values that notes that expanded access to slot machines would drastically increase gambling addiction:

Modern slot machines “engineer the psychological experience of being in the ‘zone’ — a trancelike state that numbs feeling and blots out time/space. For some heavy slot players, the goal is not winning money,” the study said.

Casinos depend on problem gamblers for their revenue base, drawing 40 to 60 percent of slot machine revenues from these people, many of whom are low rollers.

Living near a casino or working at a casino increases the chance of becoming problem gambler. Those who live within 10 miles of a casino are twice as likely to be a problem gambler than those who do not.

Problem gambling is more widespread than many casino industry leaders claim. The problem gamblers frequently go to a casino, and their lives and livelihoods may be adversely affected by their betting. They are not necessarily the heavy gamblers who are pathological and who suffer from increasing preoccupations to gamble and a loss of control.

The study also indicated the potential economic harm that increased access to legalized gambling would have on the state:

The benefits of casinos are short-term and easy to measure, but many costs pop up during the longer term that are harder to quantify. Economic stimulus fades after the casino becomes a dominant business that drives out established local businesses, such as restaurants, replacing them with pawnshops, auto title lenders and check-cashing stores. And since problem gambling develops over four to seven years, the stress on families and finances may gradually become apparent.

Geoff Freeman, the president of the American Gaming Association (AGA), a powerful gambling lobbying group, refutes the studies undertaken by the Institute for American Values:

“They believe their values are better than others. They’re trying to throw the baby out with the bath water,” Freeman told Times Union…

The American Gaming Association’s Freeman said the institute’s conclusions are based on tired arguments and inaccuracies. He said many communities benefit markedly from casinos, such as Bethlehem, Pa., Kansas City, Mo. and French Lick, Ind. He said he had not read Schull’s book on slot machine engineering, but that all technology has evolved. He said just 1 percent of the population have pathological addictions and that the other 99 percent should have the “entertainment they desire.” The AGA’s research points to 2 percent to 3 percent of the adult population having gambling problems.

Freeman was not able to estimate how much of the revenues of casinos come from problem gamblers. It would be in the billions, based on the institute’s estimates. In 2012 nationwide, tribal casinos collected $27.9 billion and commercial casinos accounted for $38.3 billion.

While it isn’t known for certain as to how much of a boon legalized gambling will be for the state, it is known how much money legislators have scored from gambling interests. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Governor Andrew Cuomo and politicians in the New York State Senate and Assembly have seen lots of cash flow into their campaign coffers from the gambling lobby. From 2011 to July of 2013, Cuomo has received $361,000 while the Legislature has taken in over $1 million in that time frame.

Common Cause, who conducted that study, noted that the law enacting the referendum had once prohibited politicians from receiving campaign contributions from the gambling lobby but that law was killed in closed-door talks.

Source: Rob Bourdon via Flickr

Source: Rob Bourdon via Flickr

A majority of New Yorkers indicated that they would support the upcoming ballot measure that would allow for the development of seven casinos. The New York Times is reporting that the poll, conducted by Siena College, found that responders were influenced by the loaded political language crafted onto the measure.

Earlier in the month, we reported that the language present in the referendum was written in exceedingly glowing terms, promising job growth and lower taxes:

“The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?”

When presented with this question posed on the ballot, people polled responded favorably as 55 percent said they would support it. The Times described the importance of the wording in the analysis of the numbers:

The poll suggested that the wording of the question is significant. When voters were asked the question in a different way, without a list of casino development’s intended purposes, they were evenly divided.

The numbers also presented contrasting findings of people thinking that building casinos would both be a positive and a negative:

The poll found that voters agree with arguments both in favor of and against expanding casino gambling.

Seventy-four percent agreed that allowing the development of casinos would create thousands of jobs, and 65 percent agreed that more casinos would generate significant new revenue for the state and for local governments.

At the same time, 57 percent agreed that the state already has enough outlets for gambling and did not need more casinos. And 55 percent agreed that developing casinos would only increase societal problems, like crime and compulsive gambling.

As we argued in an editorial, studies reveal that casinos do not guarantee positive economic impact, and that any benefits may be counterbalanced by the destructive effects that gambling addiction has on families, communities and taxpayers. We also questioned why politicians were rushing to push this legislation through, crafting the language surrounding its potential approval as a no-brainer.

Still, it should be noted that 51 percent of the people polled in the survey found that the question itself, as worded, was fair.

Source: Openmarket.org

Source: Openmarket.org

Voters will be presented with a referendum calling for the construction of seven casinos this November, and the language surrounding the measure is wrapped in language designed to make voters think that the bill is a no-brainer. The Associated Press is reporting that the referendum’s language, which promises jobs, lower taxes and money for schools, is being questioned by good-government advocacy groups.

The casino issue creeped forward earlier this year, with legislators approving the expansion for the second year in a row, clearing the way for a voter referendum on the measure. If voters give the green light, seven new casinos will be authorized in New York State, with no specific locations yet revealed. Although the governor said the first round of three casinos would all be upstate, Coney Island has been floated as a potential site in the second phase. Winners of bids to build casinos would have to pay the state an upfront fee of $50 million and then fork over 25 percent of all future gambling revenues.

In an editorial, we argued against the referendum. We cited studies that do not guarantee the boosts to local economies exuberantly promised by proponents. We also noted the destructive impact that increased gambling addiction would have on taxpayer’s wallets, and we questioned the motives of lobbying interests rushing lawmakers to craft a referendum.

Now, as the referendum draws near in November, the AP noted that voters will be faced with the following loaded language, a stark contrast to earlier efforts:

“The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?”

By comparison, an early draft mirrored most of New York’s dry, if dense, referenda. Before it was recast by Cuomo and the Legislature, the referendum stated simply: “The purpose of the proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the constitution is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos. If approved, the amendment would permit commercial casino gambling in New York state.”

Referenda are supposed summarize a law passed by the Legislature to change the constitution. The added benefits of tax breaks and school aid, however, aren’t listed in the law.

In response to such language, good-government advocates are issuing warnings that voters are potentially being taken down a primrose path:

“It has more spin than a roulette wheel,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The optimistic theme of the referendum makes no mention that those claims are disputed by some researchers and doesn’t note the decline of some casinos from New Jersey’s Atlantic City to those run by Indian tribes, or the rise in problem gambling that can shatter families and increase crime…

“This one seems particularly heavily spun,” said Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz. “I don’t think there’s anything illegal about it … it’s OK, but I don’t think it’s good.”

He noted, for example, that the other four constitutional questions to be put to voters on the November ballot don’t read as advocacy to persuade voters. Those involve Adirondack land swaps, sewer projects and allowing judges to serve up to 80 years old.

Benjamin said a group could sue over the casino referendum language, but neither law nor the constitution requires an objective presentation of an issue to voters.

A report by Times Union noted that in the case of the upcoming casino referendum, both advocates and opponents have been left curiously silent on the issue. The silence of advocates is believed to be attributed to their confidence that the measure will pass. Poll numbers researched by the Siena Research Institute found that 49 percent of voters support some expansion of full-scale gambling, while 42 percent oppose it. The lack of noise from opposition groups has been chalked up to lack of money to bring the issue to the public’s attention:

Opponents of the expansion will be active in the weeks ahead, though they say activities aren’t expected to get too intense.

“I’m surprised so far by the lack of organized opposition,” said David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values. “There seems to be a kind of passivity, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from.”

Stephen Shafer of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York said his small organization would be writing letters and giving interviews. “But we simply don’t have an advertising budget, so we’re kind of going hat in hand,” he said.

Dennis Poust, spokesman for the state Catholic Conference, said its member bishops plan to discuss the referendum at their meeting later this month in New York City. The church’s leaders have expressed worry about anything that increases addictive gambling, and view gaming as a regressive tax on the poor.

Still, despite the relative quiet on the issue, Shafer was adamant that the referendum’s language was misleading.

“The deceptive wording of this amendment on the ballot and the advancement of this late entry to ‘number one’ position are obvious moves to misinform and bias voters. New Yorkers deserve better from our legislative leaders,” Shafer told the AP.

Source: Openmarket.org

Source: Openmarket.org

A Brighton Beach man busted in a $100 million illegal poker ring has claimed that federal authorities targeted him because he was Russian. The New York Post is reporting that even though Kiril Rapoport pleaded guilty to profiting off an illegal gambling operation, his lawyer, Jay Schwitzman, is maintaining that Rapoport was unfairly pinned due to his ethnicity.

The scheme, which brought down Rapoport and 34 others, is believed to have been orchestrated by Russian gangster Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who ran the operation overseas. The gambling ring drew in high spending A-list celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio. For years federal authorities have tried to extradite Tokhtakhounov but has consistently avoided capture.

Despite Rapoport’s plea, Schwitzman insisted that his client was unfairly targeted due to his Russian ethnicity:

After a hearing on a plea deal for Russian-born Kiril Rapoport in Manhattan federal court, the perp’s lawyer, Jay Schwitzman, said the government only went after his client “because of [Rapoport's] ethnicity.”

Schwitzman said his client was not involved in “any extortion,” adding “unequivocally, there was no violence involved.”

“He played poker like you and I do,” he said.

Rapoport — who lives in Brighton Beach, a haven for Russian-immigrants, including reputed mobsters — pleaded guilty to profiting off a gambling operation he said he ran for a “few months” in Manhattan in early 2012. He previously also faced extortion charges and up to 20 years behind bars.

Under his plea deal with the feds, he agreed to serve six to 12 months in prison and forfeit $250,000 in cash. He is set to sentenced Dec. 18.

In case the name of Rapoport’s attorney Jay Schwitzman is ringing a bell, you might remember him for being the lawyer for Thomas Dunikowski, the so called “Marine Park Sniper.”

The barber shop at East 14th Street and Neptune Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

The barber shop at East 14th Street and Neptune Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

A Brighton Beach man turned on his Sheepshead Bay-based barber when he realized that the man who cuts his hair was carrying around some big bills. Brooklyn News reported that 35-year-old Joseph Tabaczek allegedly attacked and robbed the barber before being arrested.

The incident took place on June 30 on East 14th Street and Neptune Avenue, across the street from a barber shop. Tabaczek was smoking cigarettes with his barber and asked if he could borrow some money to go bet on races down at the Aqueduct Racetrack. The barber admitted to be carrying over $1,300 in cash but turned down Tabaczek’s request. Seeing the huge wad of cash that the barber was carrying, Tabaczek punched him several times in the head, grabbed the bills and ran.

Tabaczek was later tracked down by police with all the money stolen still in his pocket. He is being charged with assault and robbery.

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