On Dec 6, the New York Senate sent a bill to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk that would allow certain people with felony convictions to apply for jobs in the gambling industry. It would remove barriers for such candidates to apply for the necessary gaming and employee licenses.
The bill still automatically disqualifies applicants whose criminal record includes crimes related to:
- Public Integrity
“Public integrity” crimes cover government bribery cases, election law violations, and other forms of corruption.
This bill also allows the state Gaming Commission to reject license applications at its discretion. So, people with histories of financial crime can still be filtered out of the gambling job and license application processes on a case-by-case basis.
If Gov. Hochul signs S1443B, it will increase the number of people able to apply for jobs at New York’s casinos and racinos. The positions former convicts will be eligible for include dealing, service work in food and beverage, and middle management.
The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who is also the driving force behind the New York online casino effort and other gambling expansion in the state.
Gambling Industry Labor Shortage
The COVID-19 lockdown which began in Mar 2020 shocked job markets, including the casino industry. The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates that 616,000 employees were unable to work during the lockdown. One group disproportionately impacted by the policy was low-level workers at casinos, many of whom were out of work for weeks or months.
As casinos reopened, they faced the same challenges that other employers faced during what’s come to be known as the Great Resignation.
MGM Resorts responded to high turnover and the challenge of attracting new employees by allowing applicants to try jobs in virtual reality during the application process.
However, as recently as Apr 2022, the AGA reported that gambling CEOs still listed labor shortages as the third greatest impediment to industry growth. Supply chain issues and inflation/interest rate concerns were first and second, respectively.
Casinos still desperately need dealers, food and beverage workers, hospitality workers, and other low-level positions that can be filled by unskilled workers. With increased demand post-pandemic, New York casinos have every reason to want to cast a wider net.
Job Prospects are Key to Rehabilitation
After serving their sentence, one of the things former convicts need to do is find a job. According to the Brookings Institution, employment is one of several factors with a moderate impact on the chances of recidivism for someone with a felony conviction on their record. It ranks ahead of factors like social status or IQ, though the presence of antisocial personality issues outweighs anything else.
Most felony convictions won’t impact a person’s ability to work ethically as a dealer or hospitality worker in a casino, with appropriate supervision. Casinos already have systems in place to track all money coming in and going out, which makes scamming casinos from the inside difficult in the short term and impossible in the long run. Casino pit bosses carefully monitor win-loss ratios to spot unusual activity and quickly catch low-level theft.
At the same time, gainful employment can make a huge difference to someone trying to leave a criminal past behind. In his memoir, California Soul, Keith Corbin describes how honest work in the restaurant industry allowed him to stop relying on cooking crack cocaine to make a living. His post-prison job at LocoL, a new fast-food restaurant in his neighborhood, allowed him to climb the career ladder. Today, he’s the co-owner and head chef of Alta Adams, a prestigious soul food restaurant in Los Angeles.
Good jobs provide crucial second chances for those who need them most. While not all former convicts are equally suited for long-term employment, those who successfully rehabilitate deserve to have good lives ahead of themselves after prison.
Benefits for New York Casinos and Ex-Convicts Alike
The casino industry isn’t the only one turning to former convicts to address its labor shortage issues. If Gov. Hochul chooses to sign the bill, she’ll be helping the industry and creating new opportunities for a group that desperately needs them.
S1443B has strong bipartisan support, having passed the state Senate 56-7 and passed in the state Assembly 110-34. Although Gov. Hochul hasn’t yet indicated whether she’ll sign or not, she would be going against the grain to veto it. If she does not wish to give the bill her explicit endorsement, there is a third option. Under New York law, the governor has a ten-day window to sign or veto a bill. When that time elapses with no action, the bill becomes law automatically, albeit without the governor’s name on it.
Since the bill landed on Gov. Hochul’s desk on Dec 6, we’ll know one way or another shortly.