Irrational Opposition to Nassau OTB's Casino

Sometimes I get the feeling that people just like to be opposed to something-- anything at all. People just like to fight for the sake of fighting. They would probably like the book once referenced in a Monty Python sketch, 101 Ways to Start a Fight. These seem to be the type of people who from the blue emerged to fight the plan for a casino at the vacant Fortunoff's store near Westbury, New York. It's almost as though they were dropped from a fleet of planes just to be professional opponents.

I can't imagine a more idiotic reaction to what would most likely be a mostly harmless casino. Let's look at some sober reality for a few moments instead of the frenzied hysteria that opponents have been fomenting in the last two weeks.

First Hysteric: Casinos attract criminals, vagrants, and other undesirable types.

Reality: People who say this probably have not been near a casino recently. If they had, they would see their grandmothers and grandfathers, their moms and dads, retired folks playing penny slot machines just to pass the time. The people who go to casinos are, well, our neighbors-- people just like us. They aren't space aliens intent on turning us all into zombies. I don't feel the least bit unsafe going near a casino, Besides, any casino is going to have cameras all over the place. They even spotted my father using my mother's slot card once; surely they can identify criminals of higher aspirations.

Second Hysteric: A casino will attract large numbers of people.

Reality: Existing casinos are already hurting from increased competition. In Atlantic City, New Jesrey, several casinos have already closed on account of the ones that have opened in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York. Harrah's in Chester, Pennsylvania has complained that its bottom line is hurt every time a new casino is opened in Pennsylvania. There are only so many gamblers. From where will they come? They surely won't come from Suffolk, where the local OTB has its own plans for a slot hall. They aren't going to fight traffic on the LIE to come from afar, and they aren't likely to go past the casino at Aqueduct race track if they come from elsewhere in the west. To the south of us is, well, ocean. To the north is-- more unbridged water. The idea that this place will be overcrowded is just so much hot air.

Third Hysteric: The neighborhood is inappropriate for a casino.

Reality: It is actually highly appropriate. It is not at all near schools, playgrounds, day care centers, or other institutions that attract children. It is near major highways, including the Meadowbrook State Parkway. A parking garage already exists on the site. No major construction or disruption to the neighborhood will be necessary. Any other use of the building will probably generate traffic anyway. Should we just let it stand vacant? We're talking about a commercial strip here, folks, not a residential neighborhood. It wasn't that long ago that a major race track, Roosevelt Raceway, was literally next door to Fortunoff's. Roosevelt routinely attracted crowds of 10,000 and 20,000 people in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's-- far more than this casino can ever hope to pull in today's oversaturated gambling market.

If people wanted to oppose this on moral grounds, perhaps I could understand. If that is the case, though, we need to take a larger look at the role of gambling in our society and whether government and quasi-governmental agencies should be allowing it and encouraging it at all, not just whether one particular site is right or not. This knee-jerk NIMBY-ism is just sickening and disgraceful.

Finally, it isn't really a casino or gambling if one really doesn't have a ghost of a chance to win, which is the reality behind most of today's carefully designed, psychologically manipulative slot machines-- oh, I'm sorry-- video gaming terminals. It's really more like entertainment, which is why casino companies tend to use that term in their names. Most "casinos" today are more like fancy arcades where people play for prizes, gifts, food, or other trinkets and really don't care if they win actual money. The odds of winning are quite slim. If they do open a casino at Fortunoff's, caveat emptor, but as they said in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "don't panic."

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict