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Point of View: Take a chance, Open a casino in Flushing

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Yes, Flushing is indeed the destination of choice as far as immigrants are concerned. But the town needs a catalyst to keep its boom going. Tourism, that is.Frankly, Flushing has nothing to attract tourists. Never mind. Here's a bold alternative: Casino. A bizarre idea, huh? No, it's not. Barring weird regulations, it's feasible. Gaming business without doubt could draw visitors in droves. There is no shortage of sites, investors and developers for that type of business in town. The long-closed Caldor building on Roosevelt Avenue is a good candidate for that. It can be converted into a glittering casino minus lodging facilities. There is no need for fancy hotel rooms because Flushing is conveniently reachable via No. 7 train.If that colossal building is unavailable for any reason, then we can build a floating one by the Flushing River bank with a boardwalk. Predictably, this suggestion is going to flabbergast the heck out of some local conservatives. The naysayers would surely condemn this idea in that it would degrade moral values. To them, casino is synonymous with sin. Such a hypothesis is hypocritical. Just ask people at Atlantic City or at Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.How about Lotto, Megaball, and other lotteries, including at least 16 card games that even juveniles can buy and scratch them right at convenience stores? What's more, an overcrowded off-track betting outlet is just across the street from Caldor.In fact, Americans spend millions of dollars gambling on the lottery every day. About 99.999 percent of them end up as losers. On the other hand, the probability of winning some money is much higher at casinos if you are not too greedy. As far as objections are concerned, there is little difference between gambling at casinos and playing lottery at convenience stores or at home. Each day, tens of thousands of people visit casinos run by native Americans. Then why cannot we have a casino around the corner on our streets? We can adopt the same stringent guidelines casinos across the nation have successfully enforced.Although few leave casinos as winners, most tend to enjoy trying their luck at the gambling tables. In fact, many old folks find casinos comfortable places to kill their time by feeding slot machines with nickels and quarters. Some even hit jackpot. Besides, casinos can create hundreds of jobs, provide live entertainment and generate tax revenues for the city and local governments. In other words, it's a win-win situation in terms of the local economy and city revenues.We have more than enough homegrown clients to keep one or two casinos going right here. Many would come from other boroughs. We don't have to beckon high-rollers, who perhaps are interested in bigger operations in Connecticut or Atlantic City or Las Vegas.Two years ago, a friend invited me to see a floor show at Mohegan Sun. Before the midnight performance, I walked around the casino and found six of the eight halls were filled with Asians playing baccarat, Russian roulette and what not. Surprisingly, a vast majority of them were from Queens.A guy sitting in front of us on a bus from Flushing to the casino bragged that he had lost $100,000 the previous year at the Connecticut casinos. Occasionally, he won big. That was the reason motivating him to continue that habit. Was he a high-roller? No. Just a lamb shish-kebab vendor in Flushing.One thing is sure, however. A good number of Queens residents, mostly new immigrants, have squandered a lot of money at the two Connecticut casinos.From observation, I venture to conclude that blue-collar immigrants, by and large, enjoy visiting casinos for the following reasons:First, they have a get-rich-quick-at-casino mentality. Second, some lonely souls enjoy the clamorous milieu at casinos.Third, some folks just cannot refuse the casino's gimmicks. Right after getting off the bus, each passenger is given $30 vouchers redeemable at the casino's diners or gambling tables. Of course, patrons have to pay the $10 round-trip fare. New York has several full-fledged casinos upstate but none in the Big Apple, the nation's most liberal city with about 8 million people. It seems something is wrong. It's time for us to have a couple of casinos within the city's border to cater to people in the five boroughs and beyond. And Flushing is probably the best location for such an entertainment institution.

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