By Nathan Mayberg
LOCH SHELDRAKE March 2, 2004 Anti-casino residents poured into Sullivan County Community College Saturday for a forum on casino gambling in the county.
The keynote speaker was John Kindt, a professor of business law at the University of Illinois. Guest speakers also included Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and Town of Rockland Supervisor Patricia Pomeroy.
Gunther and Pomeroy support casinos, but stressed the need for the towns and county to plan ahead.
Pomeroy, in particular, thought the casinos were necessary to offset the tax burden in the county.
"We cannot continue to hammer our residents with property taxes," she remarked to the crowd of about 150.
Pomeroy, however, was not happy with the countys approval of tax breaks for the Monticello Raceway.
The guys at the track dont want to pay them [taxes], she said.
Pomeroy also warned against unregulated development.
We need a master plan to protect the beauty of the county. Just because there are casinos doesnt mean we have to have strip joints.
Daniel Hopping, a student in SCCCs casino management program and a candy shop owner in Jeffersonville, thought that "businesses [in Jeffersonville] are praying for casinos."
"The Villa Roma cant support Jeffersonville on its own," added Hopping.
Bonnie Mead, another student in the program, supported casinos because they would bring full-time jobs with health benefits, which she said were hard to find in the county.
Kindt, however, said he supported a moratorium on casinos throughout the country. He wants slots to be "recriminalized," adding, "Dont put VLTs [Video Lottery Terminals] in to try and save the raceways."
The professor warned the audience of vast socio-economic problems associated with casinos, claiming that for every dollar the community gained from casinos, it would cost them three.
Dave, a resident of Monticello, disputed that fact.
"Connecticut and New Jersey will be bankrupt in a short amount of time," he said, adding that New York State loses $5 billion in revenue every year due to people flocking to gambling states like Connecticut, New Jersey and Nevada.
Kindt, however, claimed that new addicted gamblers would cost local governments $10,000 per person.
He also estimated that when people gamble, they spend 10 percent less on food and 25 percent less on clothes. Bankruptcies shoot up, he added.
"Legalized gambling is the leading cause of bankruptcy," said Kindt.
Crime would also rise, warned Kindt.
"New crime goes up 10 percent in the third year after casinos open."
Kindt compared casinos to "having a toxic waste dump in your backyard." He reminded the audience that, in the case of Native American casinos, federal law does not apply. Equal opportunity, sexual harassment, and other labor laws have no part.
"All bets are off," he quipped.
After Kindts speech, residents were allowed to speak as well. Most of them were against casinos.
They pointed to Atlantic City as an example of what they didnt want Sullivan County to become. Others were upset they were never consulted for their opinion on casino gambling. Many were worried about traffic, crime, and environmental issues.
Jack Hirschfield, a former U.S. Post Office employee, claimed that embezzlement of post office couriers had shot up to the billions in the last several years but only in areas with casinos.
The program was organized by Dick Riseling and Sullivan County Peace and Justice. Sullivan County Legislators Leni Binder and Chris Cunningham and County Manager Dan Briggs were noted to be in attendance.