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Locustwood / Gotham Civic Association
Elmont, Long Island, New York 11003

Next Meeting:

Next Meeting
February 19
7:30 PM



Belmont Park Neighboring Civic Study

Neighboring Civic and Residents Oppose VLTs Idea at Belmont

The Locustwood Estates founded in 1929, and renamed in 1989 to the Locustwood / Gotham Civic Association serves as the civic that represents the homeowners, families and children of the residents that reside in the western section of the hamlet of Elmont. Slightly over eighty percent of Belmont Park is within the area referred to as Locustwood Estates. As the civic with the closest proximity to Belmont Park, and ultimately the greatest impact to development at the location, we had done an extensive research and study as to what would best fit the community, as well the needs of the taxpayers and the benefit of the horse racing industry.

The Locustwood / Gotham Civic Association, in conjunction with research and community responses from recommends the State of New York and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to oppose Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) at Belmont Park.

The State is in a tough economic situation. There is a conscious strategy across the nation on part of the gambling industry to take advantage of States who are forced to make these tough decisions. There is no evidence that states with large sources of gambling revenues are better financially or better off in providing services to the citizens of its State.

In 1999, a Federal Commission reported, “States should refuse to allow the introduction of casino style gambling including VLTs into pari-mutuel facilities.” Largely because of deceptive advertising practices, and how these facilities tend to target minority and poor communities. As Newsday recently reported, Elmont is a lower-middle class, working and multi-cultural community. Elmont is a community that is most at risk and vulnerable to the social and economic damages that VLTs create.

The University of Alabama in May 2008 identified scientific proof that gamblers of VLTs have the same chemical reaction similar to cocaine, according to high-tech imaging that looks inside the brain. A 2004 New York State Senate study found that VLTs are the most addictive and most dangerous form of gambling. In 2002, even casino advocate US Senator John McCain, acknowledged to a crowd in South Carolina, those electronic games such as VLTs hurt families and communities.

While New York State may receive some financial benefit because of expanding gambling, the social and economic burden will fall on the community. Counties that have gambling facilities have bankruptcy rates go up by over 18%. Small business around casinos often close due to financial loses, and there is a degradation of quality of jobs, and the local work force and their opportunities for self-growth. Ultimately, the result to the local community is another mandated cost. Social costs are staggering after a few years a VLT operator opens. The cost to the local community is $13,000 to $22,000 for each problem gambler. Taken into account the average of problem gamblers generated by VLTS across the nation, it will cost the hamlet of Elmont $14.43 Million to $57.72 Million a year, to cover the social costs of VLTs alone. The federal study also noted that communities like Elmont with a high minority population and or youth population tend to have substantially higher financial burdens as a result. This figure does not include the costs of infrastructure, or the costs of increased police coverage nor the financial implications to other surrounding communities such as Bellerose, Floral Park, South Floral Park and Queens Village.

States across the nation are cutting back from gambling projects. Massachusetts stopped their plans of three casinos. In Buffalo, New York, the current economic climate halted the construction of a casino. In the province of New Brunswick, Canada the government eliminates 50% of VLT locations and the result was million of dollars more for the horse racing industry. Evidence that more is not always better.

Casinos in New Jersey and Las Vegas are going bankrupt and laying off thousands of jobs. Last month, Mayor Oscar Goodman of Las Vegas opposed the construction of VLTs in the city’s downtown. Instead, the Union Park downtown revitalization project focuses on creating a community and performing arts center.

NYRA Chairman Charles Hayward publically noted to CBS Sports that VLTs at Belmont is not necessary for NYRA to be profitable. In fact, last week in Bloodhorse he was quoted saying, “VLTs will not be bringing in revenues 10 years from now.”

Video Lottery Terminals bring more harm than good; provide no long-term economic benefit and only breeds corruption and degradation of families and the quality of life of communities. Russia has completely banned them. States across the nation are stopping projects. Multiple referendums last November had voters opposed to new casinos.

Tough decisions call for tough answers. While we look for quick solutions to our troubled economy, we must not forget who will have to front the burden and the most importantly the consequences in the future. It is the children, and the many who attend schools around Belmont Park, some just a hundred feet away that ultimately would face the consequences. We must look at the harsh reality. Though VLTs seem to create a quick fix, we must not be blind to the economic, social and scientific evidence that prove that not only in our State, our nation, but the world that ultimately VLTs cause more harm than good.

It is critical for the State of New York, to improve upon the historical nature of Belmont Park and focus on connecting the community with the racetrack. The Manice Center Project serves as an example where community, culture and fine arts take precedent. A museum and a community / cultural center would provide the necessary support to the suburban community, as well as provide the economic boost to the State of New York and the horseracing industry at Belmont Park.

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