Last week, the state announced that legalized gambling – beyond the betting on the ponies that already exists at Aqueduct and the chance of snagging a good deal at the weekend flea market – would be coming to the racetrack.
The state sold the privilege of installing 4,500 video slot machines to Buffalo-based Delaware North for $370 million. In addition to the “racino,” the company has promised a “world-class” transformation of the Aqueduct site, including a hotel, conference center, and entertainment complex that could play host to events like boxing matches and concerts.
It all sounds really (MGM) grand.
However, Delaware North only has the financing to actually build the gambling portion of their proposal, anything beyond that is simply a plan.
Should Delaware North actually realize their grand vision, it would breathe new life into this section of Southeast Queens, making it a mini-Las Vegas right here in New York City. If the Aqueduct could actually be turned into a destination spot, it would be an enormous economic boost to the surrounding neighborhoods and New York City as a whole.
However, if they fail to realize their grand vision, any racino would likely have the opposite effect. It would, rather, suck the life out of the surrounding neighborhoods, and the racino would likely become a draw for little more than gambling addicts and people who can ill-afford to spend money on slot machines hoping for a big payout that never comes.
The state is in dire financial straits, and trying to up the coffers by legalizing gambling to create a booming spot with a large taxable income is not a bad idea, but only if we make sure that Delaware North is all in.