Almost all of the 16 casino proposals under consideration in New York are within 25 miles of a university or college—and three of them are just minutes from major schools.
A state board is currently reviewing the final four applications, following a 2013 voter-approved measure permitting a limited number of casino sites. No governing rules restrict school proximity.
Some of the more elaborate proposals would fall very close to colleges:
- Hard Rock International suggested a $300 million complex within eight miles of both College of St. Rose and State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany.
- Traditions Resort & Casino requested a 321,000 square-foot location within six miles of both SUNY Broome Community College and Binghamton University.
- Real estate developers Galesi Group pitched a "casino-resort" less than three miles from both Schenectady County Community College and Union College.
A range of reactions on campus
Some students support the idea of nearby casinos, seeing it as a way to earn quick money at the tables or slot machines, but many faculty members see it as a financial danger.
"We do not need a casino within a short drive to distract and attract... college students who, all over this country, are already burdened with monumental debt," wrote William Starkweather, a former Binghamton professor, in an open letter to the gaming commission.
Already, "students are sometimes not as adept at handling money as they should be," says Deborah Glick, chairperson of the State Assembly's higher-education committee. And in her opinion, casinos could also offer "one more environment where [students] have an opportunity to drink too much."
Comparing approaches to alcohol policy violations
However, many community colleges have embraced their new neighbors by launching casino management degrees. Nearby facilities would provide internship opportunities and post-graduation positions, argues Debbie Preston, executive for Broome County, home of SUNY Broome and one potential casino location.
Students in Broome's casino program can take courses on casino operations management, casino games, and bartending. Those completing a casino management certificate also learn about gaming surveillance and security, operations management, and complete an internship.
Casinos report good intentions
Traditions project manager John Hussar says the casino plans to partner with schools for just that reason—to offer professional experience for students.
Other casino operators point out that communities already offer a range of non-gambling distractions for students, such as restaurants and spas. Some reject the idea they would market to students at all—the state's gambling age is 21.
School officials remain neutral on the issue publically.
Administrators at Union "stand ready to work with city leaders to ensure that any... revitalization efforts dovetail with our responsibility to our students," according to a spokesman. Binghamton administrators say they do not "wish to choose sides."
But not all are impartial. The president of Hobart & William Smith Colleges is chairman of the Gaming Commission and Hofstra University's president is a Gaming Facility Location Board member (Harris, Ithaca Journal, 10/8; Vilensky, Wall Street Journal, 10/26; Rivers Resort Executive Summary, accessed 10/29).
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