BETHLEHEM, Pa. - A ballot issue that was decided in Tuesday's elections in New York could have an impact here.
Full-scale casinos are coming to the Empire State, leaving some to wonder whether the move will lure gamblers away from Bethlehem and the Poconos.
Most of the casinos in New York's future won't open for a few years, plenty of time for Pennsylvania casinos, like the Sands Bethlehem, to come up with plans to retain their customers.
Thousands of New Yorkers travel to the Sands Casino each day, helping to make the Bethlehem casino the number one place for table games in the state.
"Any time you're adding competition to an area you never know where the customers are going to end up," said Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
That is the new game of chance facing owners of the Sands and Mt. Airy Casino in the Poconos.
New York voters passed a casino ballot referendum that will add up to seven full-service casinos in the state.
The first four will be in the northern part of New York and gamblers could turn to the Big Apple.
"There really isn't a way that you can say this revenue may or may not take away from Pennsylvania," added McGarvey. "It really is one of those things that we have to wait and see what's offered there."
"It could ultimately trickle down to communities who are relying on the funding source that the casino creates for the immediate surrounding communities," said Tony Iannelli, president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. "So that certainly is a concern."
The move may cost tax dollars and loss of business for some in our area.
Business leaders said the goal will be to market casinos in the area more as destination spots where casinos would be just some of many things to do in the area.
"I think the casino is a symbol of brownfield revitalization," said Iannelli. "First and foremost it is a symbol: Bethlehem Steel. Now it's a wonderful revitalization.
There's a retail component, there's an entertainment component, and the SteelStacks is there."
City leaders in charge of budgets that count on casino tax dollars said they feel revenue will remain strong even if more competition is added to the area.
Allentown, PA 18102
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