There appears to be an unseemly rush to set up casinos in Manhattan. Every day there is a new proposal from a prospective operator.

However, don’t fall for the okey-doke. If the city places a bet on Lucky Dan, it’s sure to be stung just as in the movies. This is a desperate last gasp move to jumpstart the New York economy that is doomed to failure.

The latest entry in our local sweepstakes is a bid by venerable Saks Fifth Avenue to place a casino on its top three floors, no doubt in the hope of attracting a few strays from the blackjack table to purchase their finery. Another proposal is for a casino in the empty lot just south of the United Nations in an entertainment complex with sports fields, democracy museum with chunks of the Berlin Wall (can’t quibble with that) and Ferris Wheel to attract family-oriented gamblers, probably exiting at the debates in the U.N. General Assembly.

The next thing you know they’ll be setting up a pool hall atop the Empire State Building. Or perhaps a floating crap game at the seal pool at the Central Park Zoo.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against a sporting wager or two when it is within reasonable limits. Further, what is the stock market but a form of gambling casino that just happens to provide the funding and the architecture for our hallowed capitalist system?

Next, this has to be looked at in the context of building an economy centered around vice. Any of us who have been out in the city have been subject to the pungent aroma of marijuana everywhere. Now that weed is legal, I don’t see any value to criminalizing marijuana, and think of all the wasted lives in prison as a result. At the same time, there’s not much social utility to a bunch of stoned people wandering around let alone driving a car. Making matters worse, Mayor Adams just attributed the increase in thefts in New York during December to unlicensed cannabis shops. Can someone please tell me what the difference is between the distinguished clientele of licensed as compared to unlicensed shops?

I suppose there is nothing wrong with a casino, but that’s why they have Las Vegas, Foxwoods, Atlantic City, the racetrack and Internet gambling. And if New York State wants, it can put the new casino out by Citi Field in the back of Willets Point next to the junkyards.

But let’s be clear. Grandiose visions of great jobs are always offered up as the justification for a new casino. However, for some reason that Nirvana never seems to materialize. The only winner is the house, literally, meaning the owner of the casino. At the same time, you have may have noticed the occasional commercial put out by the ubiquitous sports gambling sites that people should “bet responsibly”. That’s easy to say, but not always so easy to do.

The bottom line is if we want NYC to have a strong economy, we need to figure a way to induce people back to the office legitimately. That will shore up the tax base and bring back the customers that we lost during Covid. In order to do so, we need to tackle the festering problems of crime, homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. Unfortunately, that will be a long slog. We’ll have more on this in future columns. But the sugar high of casino gambling will not get the job done.

Call me a member of the privileged class, but casinos are not going to draw enough workers back to their desks, and they might even have another reason to stay away. Further, the carnival atmosphere promoted by a casino may not set the right tone for a serious business-oriented city.

On the other hand, if our captains of industry were really creative, they would put the casino in an office building and make it an amenity for the tenants only like a gym or a restaurant. Then we would see how many people turn up at the office. The only problem is that we would probably find that too many employees are squandering their paychecks.

The bottom line is we’ve got to do better than turning the city into a game of 3-card monte. As everyone knows, that’s a sucker’s bet. But for now, it’s back to the drawing board. We should think twice before turning New York City into Hades on the Hudson.

Thank you,

Ruth Colp-Haber

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Wharton Property Advisors