Before state legislators give their inevitable second approval to allow casinos in New York and the issue goes to the public for a final say, those who believe that this will be an unqualified success need to study the numbers coming from the new racino at Aqueduct in Queens.
As reported this week in The New York Times, the slots at Aqueduct rang up $630 million in revenue over 12 months. The people who took mass transit or drove in were not going to Atlantic City, where revenue has dropped steadily since a high in 2006, or to Foxwoods.
The other casino in Connecticut, Mohegan Sun, once a shiny example of the unlimited potential for gaming success, said last week it would be laying off another 328 workers because of slow business blamed in part on Aqueduct.
The new gaming operations in the Poconos are doing better than these older establishments, but all would provide competition should New Yorkers approve the creation of casinos.
And should one of those casinos be located in New York City, which is a certainty, then those who still hope that gambling will be the economic engine that drives the resurgence of the Catskills will need to come up with better proof than they have now.
We already have two clear bets on what casinos will mean for the region. The people who are hoping to return the Nevele to its former prominent place have ambitious plans that all hinge on not only making casinos legal but also locating one there. If not, they will go away and nature will quickly reclaim the golf course, as it almost did once before.
The investors who are planning a large-scale family resort on the site of the old Concord are not waiting for changes in the Constitution.
They say they will be able to renovate and build, to attract families for a water park and golfers for a nostalgic and challenging round or two on the Monster, no matter what happens in Albany.
If all they can have are slot machines and horse racing, that will be enough, they say. They make the case that they have studied the market and that this will work, even if it might work better with a full-fledged casino.
Those who will be guiding the state's official decisions need to follow the lead that these two groups of developers have offered.
If the state is going to thoroughly consider the ups and downs of allowing casinos, somebody in Albany needs to do the same kinds of market analysis.
If the troubles in Atlantic City and Mohegan Sun are merely the result of the economic downturn, then there should be some way of demonstrating that. If a casino in New York City will pull in business from a wide area, than the state needs to avoid putting another casino in a location that will be doomed to failure.
-- The Middletown Times Herald-Record