Letters to the Editor
My fellow community members have been vocal and clear about the reasons a VLT casino is inappropriate and ill
conceived as a location at Belmont Park. Both the Belmont Park Task Force and the grass roots effort have done a great deal of research, and have backed up the formidable list of reasons against this placement with an equally formidable list of facts. No one can see into the future, but drawing upon others’ statistical data, empirical evidence, and anecdotal experiences can help us learn and prevent costly mistakes from reoccurring.
Thus, I take exception to last week’s full-page ad placed by members of Fair Share for Our Community (hereafter FSOC) in which statements were made describing anti-VLT statements as lies. I would like to counter those claims with the facts.
Purported lie #1 “The VLTs will line the fence of Floral Park near our schools.” Thoughtfully, the FSOC also placed a photo
of Belmont and the surrounding area in their ad. It clearly shows at least one half of the perimeter of Belmont lines residential
areas, including two schools. I believe what the FSOC was trying to show is how far the schools would be from the physical slot
machines, but they are underestimating people’s intelligence. We all realize these machines will not exist in a vacuum. Since the temporary location will be in the parking lot, where precisely will visitors be expected to park? In the parking lot “lining the fence of Floral Park”-Bellerose Elementary School. There is proven history of violent crimes taking place in the parking lots of VLT casinos (as recently as May 2015, there was a fatal shooting in Resorts World Casino, Queens). This is a very real
fact, and children’s safety a very real concern.
In addition, lock-down drills are already an unfortunate and scary staple in our children’s school days; a VLT casino in this location will increase this, thus increasing risk of traumatic experiences for our children. For those interested in school ratings:
when children have a history of trauma, be it a single incidence, or prolonged experience, their brains are rewired to remain
on high alert, creating difficulty with attention span and learning. (For more facts on this topic visit: NCTSN.org/resources). In
addition, the emergency evacuation route for Floral Park-Bellerose School actually empties out into the very same parking lot we are discussing, which begs the question, which potentially terrifying situation will they be subjected to?
Floral Park Memorial High School sits on the eastern side of the Belmont Property, directly across the street from Gate 8 which, conveniently enough, is a direct route to the Grandstand and Lot A. Short enough for high school seniors to visit on
their lunch hour, and short enough to create the foundation for a gambling addiction. Fact: A 2002 Rhode Island Gambling
Treatment Program research paper calls video slots “the most addictive form of gambling in history.” Two out of three addicted gamblers said that video machines caused their gambling problems. Research found that people became “hooked” in just over a year.
Purported lie #2: “Every road will lead to VLTs.” I cannot find evidence of any anti-VLT proponent actually making this nonsensical statement. I will instead counter the accompanying statement: “There would be NO Plainfield Avenue
entrance.” Again, let us examine the facts: The VLT facility is looking to have thousands of visitors daily; they need to, in order to reach their self-proclaimed numbers. The proposed temporary facility would span most of the parking lot, and the only other truck-accessible entrance to Belmont is on Hempstead Turnpike. Next, some questions: Will trucks carrying supplies to serve thousands of visitors enter via the main entrance, or will they enter in the back, with a shorter, more direct, and less trafficked route to the back door? I have lived in Floral Park for 40 years. I have never seen that entrance closed. Will NYRA
suddenly begin having their supplies delivered to their front door as well? OTB has submitted no plans, so no one knows for sure. The FSOC has printed this as a fact, and that is not the case.
Purported lie #3: “Crime will go up.” The ad goes on to state revenues that do not exist yet will pay for an increase of police presence. Yonkers may have positive statistics as a VLT facility, but I would point out that it is being run privately, and
not by OTB, an organization continuously in debt. While I am so glad to hear that “Newsday agrees,” their opinion does not contradict the actual facts. For instance: “The landmark study by economists Earl Grinols and David Mustard (2006), exhaustively reviews the reality of casinos and crime… and illustrates the escalating occurrence of crime as local gambling impact “matures.” The study shows that casinos increased crime after a lag of 3 to 4 years…[and] the data suggests casinos create crime, and not merely move it from one area to another.” -FPPD Belmont Park Casino Impact Study. To rebut the absurd statement regarding increased police presence: “Studies paid for by the gambling industry promise big payoffs for the state but fail to take into account the economic and social costs of expanded gambling that must be borne by taxpayers. These
costs include: revenue offsets for taxable money spent in a casino that is not spent in another sector of the economy, the cost of regulation, the cost of additional law enforcement, and the cost of counseling, treatment and support for families of addicted gamblers. When all of these costs are calculated and subtracted from revenues, gambling ends up being a
net loss for taxpayers.” (www.nocasinos.org, Florida)
The immediate and energetic community response against VLTs at Belmont is not, as some have said, “classic NIBMYism,” but rather is made up of clear and concise arguments against VLTs in general, as a source of dubious income for an already struggling county. VLTs do not belong anywhere on Long Island.
OTB has been operating at a steady loss until just recently, and there is no evidence to show that sinking more money into
this venture will counteract that. The idea that this casino will result in an economic boon for Nassau County and the host
communities is shortsighted and unfortunately not based on facts. Differing opinions regarding a VLT casino at Belmont Park are based on what concerned citizens can only guess about the future.
Those who oppose VLTs, do so based on empirical evidence and concern for their neighborhoods, livelihoods, and safety.
Some of those who support the project do so out of concern for their jobs and a hope for a better county. I can respect that, even when I do not agree.
Unfortunately, there are also those who support it based on “getting their fair share” at the expense of thousands of individuals’ quality of life, livelihoods, and safety. That type of thinking sounds very much like what got Nassau County in this situation in first place. They might want to consider getting their facts in order.
Thank you for your consideration.
Bernadette E. Smith,
Task Force Member