New York City Parents Say Kids Being Used as ‘Pawns’ by Casinos

Posted on: August 21, 2023, 01:40h. 

Last updated on: August 21, 2023, 01:40h.

Parents in New York City say their children are being used as “pawns” by casino developers hoping to win one of the state’s three downstate commercial gaming licenses.

New York City casino children youth sports
Children participating in Brooklyn USA Basketball, a nonprofit fostering youth hoops in the New York City borough, received new uniforms from a group that’s hoping to build a casino in Coney Island called “The Coney.” Not everyone is thrilled that New York casino development hopefuls are supporting youth sports in an effort to improve their odds of winning a casino license. (Image: Instagram)

New York legalized seven commercial casinos in 2013, but the law included a 10-year moratorium on the state issuing the three downstate licenses. The provision was to allow the four upstate casinos to open free of downstate competition.

The New York State Legislature’s thinking was that providing a 10-year exclusivity of Las Vegas-style slot machine and table game privileges for the upstate properties, that would make the upstate developments more attractive, as the owners would have 10 years to attract downstate residents north and establish their customer bases. That 10-year moratorium is over, and the New York Gaming Facility Location Board in the coming months will begin fielding applications for the coveted downstate gaming concessions.

But with MGM Resorts’ Empire City in Yonkers and Genting’s Resorts World New York City in Queens considered strong favorites for two of the licenses, the bidding war for the expected lone license is fierce.

With nearly a dozen bids being prepped, casino developers are going to drastic lengths to win over community support. And that extends to children, some concerned parents say.

Youth Sports Support

Las Vegas Sands, the world’s richest gaming operator in terms of annual gross revenue, is readying a $4 billion casino bid that would overhaul the Nassau Coliseum complex on Long Island into a commercial integrated casino resort destination. The New York Times reports that parents of youth soccer players in Nassau County were recently invited to bring their kids to the Mitchell Athletic Complex in Uniondale for a training session with global soccer superstars David Beckham and Carli Lloyd.

But parents said they were only told that the March meet-and-greet was being put on by Las Vegas Sands upon arrival of the event. The program was part of the Sands Youth Empowerment Initiative, which typically supports youth sports in communities where Sands operates.

Rich and Megan Corrao were such parents who took their children to the Beckham-Lloyd event. They were none too pleased to learn that a casino was sponsoring the shindig.

Don’t use our kids as pawns in your effort to dump something in our community that a lot of people really don’t want.” Mr. Corrao told the NYT. “It’s not appreciated. It’s not right. They’re not selling bubble gum.”

A similar incident occurred in Coney Island where a group is targeting a $3 billion casino called “The Coney.” A nonprofit called Brooklyn USA Basketball this spring distributed new uniforms and t-shirts to youth hoops players that don “The Coney” logo.

“They’re using our children to promote a casino,” said Lakeisha Bowers, who prevented her 12-year-old son from wearing one of “The Coney” shirts.

Casino Supporters Respond

Las Vegas Sands spokesperson Ron Reese says the casino company is much more than gambling and regularly empowers the communities where it operates or hopes to.

We’ll continue to invest in youth organizations because they’re important parts of the communities in which we operate,” Reese said.

A representative from Brooklyn USA Basketball said because of “The Coney” support, this year was the first year since 2011 that the nonprofit was able to provide uniforms for every child in the program. The nonprofit leaders noted that nowhere is the word “casino” or any reference to gambling made on the uniforms and t-shirts.

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