Meanwhile, Resorts World Casino New York City, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Genting Malaysia Berhard, has been raking in almost $90 million since October. Genting, which partnered with Universal Studios to build the Universal Studios Singapore theme park in Sentosa, Singapore, has $45 billion in assets and employs more than 50,000 people worldwide. According to the Daily News, it spent $1 million on lobbying Albany last year.
When Genting got the 30-year contract from New York in August, 2010, its Sentosa property was already “the most successful casino in the world,” says Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Genting New York, which oversees Resorts World Casino New York City. “We did everything by the book.”
It delivered a $380 million check to the state, broke ground on Oct. 28, 2010, and opened its Aqueduct doors exactly a year later. Under its roof are 4,525 video lottery terminals and 475 electronic table games.
“This is something that’s been done before in the gaming industry,” Friedman says of the governor’s plans. “And given the convention center, it will be a major job creator.”
For more than two decades Earl Grinols, a distinguished professor of economics at Baylor University and author of Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits, has been looking long and hard at the gaming industries’ optimistic claims.
“It’s not how many people the casino hires but what is the increase in total employment in the whole area because you could be cannibalizing some other employment somewhere else,” says the former senior economist with the Council of Economic Advisors, who has also testified in Congress on this issue. He likens the bets made by public officials on the potential benefits of casino gambling to those claims made about the gains of subsidizing sports complexes.
“The economics profession is almost unanimous in believing that sports stadiums do not tend to develop anything,” Grinols says. “The promises made by the teams are almost always exaggerated and usually so exaggerated as to be basically wrong. The same thing should and does apply to casino promises.”
According to his independent research, which he insists has never been funded by either proponents or opponents of gaming, “In casino gambling in the long run, somewhere between a third and a half of the money is coming from problem and pathological gamblers. It’s been shown time and time again.”
Grinols had a dim view of the video lottery terminals, particularly how the machine will line up the symbols, such as bells, cherries, or crowns, at the end of a player’s losing turn to create the impression that the player almost won.
“In fact, the probabilities they display are not accurate to the true probability that the machine plays out,” he says. “So they’re intentionally trying to fool some people into believing they were just on the verge of winning and if they can just play a little longer, then they will win… It’s real money that you’re losing, but they make it appear as if it’s just kind of nothing.”
He saw casinos as “just a platform for the owners to siphon money out of the economy” while disproportionately drawing from poor people and addicted gamblers.
Posted on a column in a hallway that connects the dreary Aqueduct racetrack to the flashier casino is a small sign that reads: “Remember it’s just a Game—Play responsibly!”
Out on the main floor a middle-aged man with close-cropped gray hair and probably two-day’s growth of beard was seated before a video terminal called Cash Eruption. He pulled out a $20 bill from his pocket. He didn’t give his name but he said he’d been to Aqueduct once before.
“I’m unemployed,” he smiles sheepishly, slipping the bill into the slot. Asked if he’s on a winning streak, he leaned back and laughed: “I got a better chance of being hit by lightening.”
Then he tapped the “play” button and the colored symbols started to swirl.