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Photo: <a href-"">ragingwire</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: ragingwire, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

How NYS casino development could affect New Yorkers' health

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Governor Andrew Cuomo has outlined plans to expand organized gaming in the state, arguing the addition of three casinos in upstate New York would bring substantial economic benefits to the region.

"We have gaming. The question really is, should we recognize the reality of our situation, and fully participate in casinos and gaming, and actually regulate it intelligently and tie it into our overall tourism efforts."

But, casino development has other implications including, as researchers have discovered, a significant impact on health.

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Reported by

Kate O'Connell
Reporter, The Innovation Trail


Cuomo's proposal emphasizes the thousands of jobs supported by the gaming industry in other states, and the boost that billions of dollars in revenue would deliver to economically depressed regions.

"Resort destinations with gaming can supercharge an economic development enterprise, we've seen that before," the governor said. "New Jersey, 35,000 direct jobs, those are significant numbers and they would be a significant impact, especially in upstate New York."

A comprehensive health impact study conducted in Kansas shows the employment generated by new casinos can result in health benefits, including the increased availability of health insurance and increases to the standard of living.

But there are other risks involved according to Tatiana Lyn, lead author of the study conducted by the Kansas Health Institute, "We found that the additional access to gambling can lead to problem or pathological gambling, and those are associated with negative personal health consequences such as child abuse, domestic violence, and others."

In the Cuomo proposal, the risk of problem gambling is addressed, but as a second tier criterion for evaluating potential sites for casino development. Lyn says chronic gambling can be linked to debt, divorce, domestic abuse and in some cases, suicide.

Lyn's colleague, Catherine Shoults, says their study also found increases in problem gambling coincide with a rise in the level of other addiction issues, like alcoholism. "When you have increases in pathological or problem gaming," she said. "You see increases in other problems as well. The co-morbidities tend to both increase at the same amount."

Shoults says when it comes to tourism, casino development can be a double-edged sword. While population increases associated with tourism could raise the social and economic status of a region, it can also increase traffic volume and crime levels. She says the extent of the impact of new casinos depends on the demographics and infrastructure of a particular community.

Lyn says the most significant impacts identified in their study are applicable across the board, adding, "certainly, the number of risks and the magnitude of risks associated with the potential development of casinos, can potentially outweigh the economic benefits from the casino."

The governor's plan relies on changes to the state's constitution, subject to the approval of voters.

A selection panel would make final decisions on the location of the additional casinos, dependent on community support and the resolution of contractual issues with three upstate Indian Nations.

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