December 14, 2023
By Rikki Massand
Members of the Garden City community and a few guests from neighboring municipalities gathered at the Senior Center on Tuesday evening, December 12, to discuss the proposed Sands Casino at the Nassau Hub site, and its potentially detrimental effects. The meeting, organized as a joint session of the four Garden City property owners’ associations (East, Central, Estates and West) was led by the Say NO to the Casino Civic Association. Village Trustee Ed Finneran was among the presenters. Village Trustee Michele Harrington and several outspoken local residents and volunteers also participated in the discussion as many issues were explored.
The Say NO to the Casino group has 1,100 members on Facebook and over 4,200 residents have signed the Change.org petition opposing the development of the Sands Casino and hotel/retail complex at the Nassau Hub.
Financial impacts on community
Financial impacts of the Sands Casino were elaborated on by village resident Rich Catalano, who said the annual losses by those who gamble at the Sands will exceed $2 billion, or $5.5 million lost every day. He noted that there may be increased demands on social services for gambling addictions, emergency services for police, fire and medical assistance and prosecution costs due to an increase in criminal activity. This amount, given Sands’ projections for attracting guests/patrons, would be more than eight times the amount gamblers lose at Jake’s 58 casino in Islandia.
None of the $2 billion spent and lost by consumers at the Casino would be subject to sales tax, hurting Nassau County’s revenues if the project goes ahead, the Say NO to the Casino group noted. The group also said that the local and small businesses in central Nassau would not see an increase in customers, as “the casino will monopolize consumer spending.”
Organizers pointed out that the restaurant space inside the Sands casino at the Nassau Hub will be equivalent of 18 regular-sized restaurants, and will draw diners from existing local restaurants.
The presentation made by the Say NO group at the Garden City Senior Center on Tuesday night challenged rhetoric from proponents of the Casino and County Executive Bruce Blakeman. The discussion centered on how residents’ taxes may increase, not decrease, “due to demand for social services for gambling addictions, emergency services for police, fire and medical assistance and prosecution costs due to an increase in criminal activity.”
The Say NO to the Casino members said that 80% of gambling taxes would go to the State of New York and the minor percentage they project Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead would receive will not be enough to cover the social costs of the casino. The group noted that Sands is also seeking millions of dollars in a tax breaks and incentives. The Say NO to the Casino group believes Las Vegas Sands’ senior executives and shareholders will become even richer while Long Islanders become poorer.
The Say NO to the Casino presenters said they believe there are better alternatives for the “valuable piece of real estate” that the Nassau Hub and Coliseum site is in Uniondale. They mentioned a prior proposal for an “Innovation District” that was made by by RXR Realty. Catalano noted “that plan called for a combination of mixed-use development with housing and high-value life sciences jobs.” He described the NYU-Langone facilities on Franklin Avenue and the quality of life those high-paying jobs affords, and how the more well-paid workforce can positively impact local businesses.
A slide shown during the presentation asked Garden City residents to consider, “Will the massive casino be creating jobs presenting salaries sufficient to live on Long Island? Where will these employees come from if Nassau County remains at the historic current low level of unemployment, under 3%?”
The group said that communities accept a casino proposal due to their existing concerns over economic development and job creation, especially when there are limited viable options and when local unemployment is high. The Say NO to the Casino group assets, “that is absolutely NOT Nassau County!”
Another key economic consideration was Sands’ proposal to employ roughly 5,000 people once the casino is operating. The Say NO group also challenged the potential of a training program Sands described involving Nassau County Community College. The Say NO group created a slide bearing the headline “Claims of Job Creation are Misleading!”,
The Say NO group wants to examine what percentage of casino employees could have a career ladder within the positions at Sands, and what college education might offer for its employees.
“I do not begrudge any job and some of the casino’s jobs might be good, but we already have historically low unemployment here. Some jobs at Sands will require a college education, including the restaurant manager and hotel manager. It’s not like we are an economy facing 10% unemployment and thinking of restaurant and casino jobs, it will not represent a significant amount of their proposed 5,000 jobs that involve higher education. But in the very short-term there will be construction and trades jobs brought to the site, and that impact would be in step with the other casinos being built at Aqueduct Racetrack, one in Yonkers and possibly another by Citi Field in Corona, or maybe more in Bronx or Manhattan,” Rich Catalano said.
Catalano said the focus should be an innovation center for laboratories and life sciences buildings and facilities to serve sectors of healthcare, biomedical and chemical sciences and renewable energy, “that will provide high-paying jobs.”
Catalano noted that a recent poll conducted by Newsday and Siena College “demonstrates that we (Say NO to the Casino) represent the view of the majority of Nassau County residents with respect to the casino. The group urged those gathered for the joint POAs meeting on Tuesday to get out the word to oppose the casino. Ideas were shared on how to write to, attend meetings and address elected representatives including Town of Hempstead officials and Garden City resident, Town Supervisor Donald Clavin; the New York State Senate and local State Sen. Kevin Thomas, State Assembly member Ed Ra, as well as Governor Kathy Hochul and Sen. Chuck Schumer.
The Say NO to the Casino group finished by encouraging people to write one letter opposing the proposal and the negative impacts it could have, and forward it to elected officials and publications including The Garden City News, the Long Island Press and more.
A public information meeting on the Sands proposal is scheduled with sessions in both the morning and evening on Thursday January 18, 2024. More information will be forthcoming on NoCasinoNassau.org