FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM MARCH 17, 2022 • THE QUEENS COURIER 29
Gaming is already here, now let’s make it count
BY RICH MAROKO
Since Governor Kathy Hochul included
a proposal in her executive budget that
would allow for casino licenses to be issued
in the downstate area two months ago,
there has been much debate over whether
or not to bring gaming to New York City.
But if we’re being honest with ourselves,
that debate is in our rearview mirror
because gaming – in the form of mobile
sports betting – is already happening right
here and right now. What still lies ahead is
the most important benefi t gaming off ers
and the one thing that mobile gaming has
not and cannot provide: the jobs and boost
to our hospitality and tourism industries
that an acceleration of full casino gaming
options would bring.
Since mobile sports betting came online
in New York just six weeks ago, we have
seen a record-breaking $2.8 billion in bets
wagered by millions of New Yorkers, and
that’s with March Madness and the NBA
playoff s still to come. All that money
changing hands may make for impressive
statistics, but not a cent of it is landing in
the pockets of those who need it most,
namely the thousands of unemployed
hospitality workers who would immediately
benefi t from an expansion of full
casino gaming in the downstate area.
As president of the union that represents
gaming and hospitality workers, I can say
based on fi rsthand knowledge that our
hotel and tourism industries have been hit
harder and struggled longer than almost
any other sector due to COVID. New York
may be rebounding, but the thousands of
jobs and billions in tourism revenue won’t
unless we do something drastic and immediate
to turn the tide. An expansion
of gaming options is the game-changer
we have been waiting for and that we
According to a report issued last year by
Spectrum Gaming Group for the New York
State Gaming Commission, the economic
impact of downstate commercial casinos
would be enormous. Th ousands of extremely
high-quality jobs with full health
benefi ts, $1.5 billion in licensing fees, and
hundreds of millions in revenue annually
for the state, including money for public
education, are just some of the critical
reasons for bringing full casino gaming to
the downstate area.
With nearly half of our unionized hotel
workforce still unemployed due to the
What still lies ahead is the
most important benefi t
gaming off ers and the
one thing that mobile
gaming has not and cannot
provide: the jobs and boost
to our hospitality and
tourism industries that an
acceleration of full casino
gaming options would bring.
pandemic and two years of diminished
business and leisure travel bookings, we
don’t have the luxury of getting this wrong.
We know the new jobs that will be created
will be good jobs because we already have
seen what these jobs mean for our members
who work at existing gaming facilities.
At Resorts World Casino in Queens and
Empire City Casino in Yonkers, where only
electronic gaming options are currently
available, our members receive familysustaining
salaries of about $70,000 per
year, with cost-free, high-quality healthcare
and defi ned pension plans. Combined
with the strongest workplace protections
in the industry, thanks to our union contract,
these jobs are truly unique, but they
shouldn’t be exclusive to those who already
Th ousands of New Yorkers, including
many hospitality workers who have been
unemployed since the start of the pandemic
could fi nd themselves back to work if we
took this unique moment to double down
on this economic opportunity by permitting
full casino gaming operations in the
Tourism workers have endured the most
diffi cult economic challenges of their lives
over the past two years, but now we have
the opportunity of a lifetime to begin to
turn things around. With billions of dollars
already being wagered online by state residents
over the course of just a few weeks,
there is no reason not to expand gaming
operations that benefi t actual working New
Yorkers by creating good jobs.
All that’s left is for the state to act now
and approve the acceleration of downstate
Rich Maroko is president of the
40,000-member NY Hotel & Gaming Trades
Council, the union for hotel and gaming workers
in New York and northern New Jersey.
letters & comments
BASEBALL IS BACK!
Major League Baseball’s lengthy
lockout is fi nally over.
MLB and the Players Association
have reached an agreement on a new
bargaining agreement. Spring training
begins on March 17 and opening day is
set for April 7.
Let me also mention we’ll still get a
162-game season, thankfully!
As a lifelong Mets fan, I am
extremely thrilled and full of joy.
Let me mention how I became a
Mets fan. My father was a Dodger
fan, but when they left New York,
he was not happy. But the New York
Mets came to Queens in 1964 and my
father, Frederick R. Bedell Sr., said to
me, “Son, we will now be Mets fans.” I
was 15 years old at the time, but the rest
is history, as I became a lifelong Mets
fan — and I’m proud I did!
Th e Mets have had their highs and
lows over the years, but a true fan sticks
with their team.
I have not been to a game in two
years due to the COVID-19 pandemic,
but I am eager to return to the ballpark
with the rest of my fellow Mets fans.
So, let the games begin, and let’s go
Frederick R. Bedell Jr., Bellerose
March 10 marked White Castle’s
Bill Ingram and Walt Anderson
opened their fi rst store in Wichita,
Kansas, with only $700 on March 10,
1921. It became the fi rst national fast
food hamburger chain. Th e original
price for burgers was only 5 cents!
In the early 1960s, my parents would
take me to the Kitty City Amusement
Park, which was just west of today’s
Alley Pond Golf Center on Northern
Boulevard. Our next stop would be the
Bayside White Castle on the corner of
Bell and Northern boulevards.
Th e location originally opened in
Even in the 1960s, there was no seating
area, just one long counter. It was
a simple menu, off ering 7-cent burgers
or 14-cent double sliders, with french
fries and soda at low cost.
As I got older, White Castle would
become a late night stop for a quick
snack before going home.
Prior to my 1997 wedding, Frank
Sinatra was quoted in GQ Magazine
saying he would always have White
Castle hamburgers fl own into any
performances in Las Vegas.
My wife and I decided to honor the
“Chairman of the Board” and had 200
sliders delivered to the Skyline Princess
in Flushing as part of our wedding
Today White Castle faces many
other competitors such as McDonald’s,
Burger King, Wendy’s, Five Guys,
Checkers, Hardees, Roy Rogers, Sonic,
Shake Shack, Smash Burger and others.
But for me, nothing beats a half-dozen
White Castle hamburgers topped
with cheese, extra onions and pickles!
Larry Penner, Great Neck
THE WAY WE WERE // PHOTO SUBMITTED BY JOE ABATE
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