Planet Money
11:56 am
Tue July 9, 2013

NYT Excerpt: Can A Casino Save A Struggling Town?

In his New York Times Magazine column this week, Adam Davidson writes about the economic consequences of legalizing gambling in Ellenville, NY. Here's an excerpt.

...Last month, the New York State Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo agreed on a deal to give the town a shot at one of the state's four new proposed casinos. (A referendum is expected to be held in November.) As I was walking up Center Street, I couldn't help wondering if this town had what it took to host a casino. Or if a casino could really persuade people to spend their money in Ellenville and turn around its moribund economy. But Michael Treanor, the current owner of the Nevele, who runs the company that is hoping to get the state's gaming license, told me that that wasn't the right way to look at it. "Our ability to do business is based upon a scarcity of casinos," he told me. If the state allowed a dozen casinos to break ground, Ellenville would be toast. "We would never be able to build something luxurious enough to draw people," he said. With only four casinos spread out over the entire state, though, whoever got a license could thrive...

Given the fact that casinos don't really operate in the free market, it's hard to discern whether or not these sprawling places actually benefit their surrounding areas, even depressed ones like Ellenville. Pro-gambling groups often cite data showing that casinos can revitalize broken economies and bring a fortune in tax revenue to the state. Antigambling groups argue that casinos turn communities into the stuff of country-music songs — rife with broken homes, car accidents and prostitution — and make them less desirable.

Read the whole column.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.