Casino lovers: Build a Boardwalk Empire on Coney Island

Let’s roll! Marty wants casinos on Coney Island
AP / Mary Altaffer

Casino-lovers want Albany legislators to roll the dice on Coney Island, but lawmakers who legalized seven Vegas-style gaming rooms in the state last week say the odds are stacked against the People’s Playground becoming Brooklyn’s gambling Mecca.

Residents and beachgoers say the state should allow a Boardwalk Empire to rise up in Coney in order to draw even more visitors to an area the city wants to turn into a glitzy, year-round tourist destination — but pols who are gambling on gambling say a more likely place for blackjack and baccarat in New York City will be Aqueduct Racetrack, where joker poker machines already rule the day.

“There’s a strong preference for casinos to get built in places where we already have racinos,” said state Sen. Diane Savino (D–Coney Island) who backed the casino law.

And other legislators think casinos to Coney is a losing bet that would bring with it other vices including prostitution and drugs.

Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) cited a 1999 report by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission that found that residents in areas within 50 miles of casinos have a greater chance of coming down with a gambling addiction.

“Once the additional roulette wheels are spinning and the craps tables are functioning it will be too late to take preventive action,” said Cymbrowitz, who nevertheless voted for legalizing casino gambling.

Even Gov. Cuomo is laying his chips on Aqueduct, where he recently proposed building a massive convention center that would expand the digital gaming that already is played there.

Still, some Brooklynites are hopeful that a casino would open in Coney.

“A casino would bring jobs and development,” said resident Ralph Sternblitz. “It’s a good idea.”

And Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Coney Island), who voted for the gambling bill, said the amusement area would benefit from a casino.

“Coney Island could be a great candidate,” he said. “If residents really want it I’ll push for it as an economic development piece.”

Borough President Markowitz is also a big fan of bringing casinos to Coney Island — and floated a plan to turn Coney into a gambler’s paradise back in January.

“If serious discussions begin on bringing a casino to New York City, Coney Island is a natural and should be part of any proposals on the table,” Markowitz said last week.

If Markowitz dream comes true, it wouldn’t be the first time Coney Island was rife with gamblers: a real-life version of Nucky Thompson from “Boardwalk Empire” ran casinos in Gravesend and Brighton Beach starting in the 1860s, but the party stopped when gambling was outlawed in 1910.

Proposals to end the ban have resurfaced over the years. In the 1970s, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce backed a plan to bring casino gambling to Coney Island, and even hung a banner by the Belt Parkway reading, “Welcome to Coney Island, the Perfect Resort for Casino Gambling.”

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.