Coney Island Locals Voice Opposition to Gaming at Anti-Casino Panel

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By Jada Camille, Brooklyn Paper

Coney Islanders Against a Casino, a group of residents who are doing all they can to oppose the proposed gaming center coming to the area, held an anti-casino panel and forum on February 12.

Panelists from the area shared their reasoning against bringing a gaming facility to the neighborhood, with concerns ranging from a potential increase in crime and prostitution to fewer job opportunities than project developers have proposed. But the biggest concern centered around fear that the casino would promote addictive gambling.

rendering of casino near the boardwalk

Locals said they fear the proposed Coney Island casino would negatively impact the nabe. Rendering via Thor Equities

Erica Turner, who sat on the panel and co-organized the forum, said Coney Island is known for being a family-friendly location where Brooklynites can feel safe bringing their children. With a casino present, she feels that family-oriented environment is at risk.

“I feel that it’s going to destroy families. I’ve seen gambling almost destroy my family,” she said. “Everything we do is geared toward families so we want to keep it family centered.”

The group included Coney Island clergy, activists and other local leaders who work to promote community development.

Last summer, developers with the casino team announced the center, dubbed “The Coney,” would bring 4,000 new jobs within the hospitality and gaming industry to the People’s Playground. However, locals asked how beneficial those jobs will be if they aren’t in their career field — emphasizing their desire for careers, not just jobs. They also wondered how obtainable these potential positions will be.

Linda Harrison, president of the Haber Houses tenant association, dangled a flyer on a fishing line to demonstrate what she said it feels like to be promised jobs after years of “neglect,” yanking the flyer out of reach to represent broken promises.

“They say after decades of neglect we’re finally in line to get jobs. So my question is, why was there neglect over so many decades? I think that was intentional to keep [us] in our place,” she said, further comparing the years of broken promises to dangling a carrot in front of a horse to keep it moving forward.

people looking at panelists

Panelists shared their opinions on the proposed casino coming to the neighborhood. Photo by Jada Camille

Les Bernal, national director of Predatory Gambling and Campaign for Gambling-Free Kids, joined the southern Brooklyn residents and shared the harmful effects of gambling. According to Bernal, casinos are a form of financial fraud — and he feels the fact that they are only allowed in New York City with a license from the government proves their harmful effects.

“When you have commercialized gambling, what it does is the business is about exploiting and defrauding citizens and their communities,” he said. “The business model is not based on a casual gambler, it’s based on the addictive gamblers.”

Bernal shared according to the American Psychiatric Association, gambling is included in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which is used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders. Gambling is the only non-substance related addiction — some others are alcohol, tobacco, stimulants, marijuana, and opioids — to be included in that manual.

Mathylde Frontus, a former Assembly Member for the Coney Island district and co-organizer of the February 12 event, said that as southern Brooklyn residents and activists, panelists wanted their neighbors to have a chance to share their opinions and feel heard.

“Our thinking for this event was that we wanted to speak up,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “We wanted to have a space and a forum for like-minded residents who don’t believe a casino is good for Coney Island.”

man standing behind a podium

Les Bernal, national director of Predatory Gambling and Campaign for Gambling-Free Kids, busted common Casino myths and shared the alleged negative effects of gambling. Photo by Jada Camille

Project developers are still in the preliminary stages of obtaining a gaming license. Per the New York State Request for Applications schedule, they are waiting for the gaming facility location board to answer a second round of questions before submitting their final application for a downstate license.

After applying, developers will be required to form a Community Advisory Committee made up of Brooklyn government leaders who will review the application, gauge local support, and vote on whether to issue a finding establishing public support approving the proposed application.

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran in Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.

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