• Home
  • News
  • Features
  • Conor’s Corner: New York’s lack of casinos is just another of the city’s cruel ironies
igamingnext photo
Conor’s Corner is back! The intrepid columnist makes his way across the pond to discover the many experiences that New York City has (and doesn’t have) to offer.

Start spreading the news

They say New York is the City That Never Sleeps.

As it turns out, that’s little more than a clever marketing ploy by the world-renowned Large Apple, as I discovered well past kicking-out time earlier this month. 

Having propped up the bar in one of the city’s many, many drinking hovels for far too long one night, I found myself confronted with some (surprisingly) friendly NYPD officers, who issued me a $25 ticket for, and I quote, being one of “the only guys drinking a beer in Times Square at three in the morning.”

I must confess, gentle though the officers were with me, the experience left something of a sour taste in my mouth. It was even more sour than the delicious lime-flavoured hard seltzer the policemen had falsely identified as beer. 

Although part of me fell in love with New York on my most recent visit, as a long-time resident of London, I feel I am somewhat immune to its Big City charms.

The author gives the view from the 50th floor two thumbs up

Instead of being overwhelmed by its ridiculously large buildings, filthy-handed hotdog sellers and cut-price high fashion (none of which is of particular interest to me, I hasten to add), I feel I’m able to look at New York (or more specifically, Manhattan) for what it is, without rose-tinted spectacles.

What it is, of course, is a hugely overpriced, dirty, noisy, rat-infested small island which, since changing its laws around a year ago, stinks perpetually of high-grade cannabis.

In spite of all that though, it is bloody good fun.

“You can gamble with your gastrointestinal health by buying a shawarma on the street at 3am from someone who hasn’t washed their hands in the last seven hours, but there’s nowhere you can rock up to a roulette wheel and stick a hundred bucks on black!”

I found myself heading there earlier this month to see which American fast food outlets live up to the hype (Chick-fil-A yes, Wendy’s no), and to see just how many Irish bars I could visit in one week. 

After days upon days of drinking in the likes of Padraig O’Flaherty’s, Molly O’Hoolahan’s and Colm Murphy’s Taverns, I half expected to stumble upon a place called Conor Mulheir’s Watering Hole. 

Anyway, I digress. On one final side-note, I will mention that I also spent a couple of days of my trip visiting an extremely prestigious iGaming and sports betting conference at the Convene Midtown West, by the name of iGaming NEXT NYC, and it was jolly good indeed.

What are you on about, Conor?

The point I’m trying to make is that amid all of the city’s madness, one thing I remain utterly struck, flabbergasted and astounded by is that New York, despite being world-renowned as the City that Has Everything, doesn’t even have a casino.

Fourteen thousand Irish bars, and not a single casino! A Starbucks on every corner, where you can spend two weeks’ wages on a vanilla-mocha-orange-frappa-cappa-snappa-baby-puppa-cino, and not a single goshdarned casino!

Sure, you can gamble with your gastrointestinal health by buying a shawarma on the street at 3am from someone who hasn’t washed their hands in the last seven hours, but there’s nowhere you can rock up to a roulette wheel and stick a hundred bucks on black!

What is this fresh hell?!

If New York had a Vegas-style resort casino somewhere in one of its five boroughs, perhaps I wouldn’t have been (again, very gently) cajoled into handing over my hard-earned cash to two of the city’s finest law enforcement officers. 

The author surveys the Manhattan skyline in search of a casino

I could have given it to Las Vegas Sands instead! Or Caesars! Or Hard Rock International! And I can pretty much guarantee I’d have handed over a damn sight more than $25 for the privilege.

That New York does not yet have a land-based casino is one of the wildest things about the city, which so frequently congratulates itself on offering every entertainment option under the sun.

I experienced a number of the options it does offer, however. I was picked on by comedians at the world-famous Comedy Cellar. I ate a sandwich in the deli where Meg Ryan faked an orgasm in When Harry Met Sally. I drank a cocktail served with a ‘floral cloud’ on the 50th floor of the Ritz Carlton.

And still, after all that, I couldn’t find anywhere to ‘hit’ on 18 at the blackjack table, happily handing over my cash to a casino operator as a result.

All in good time

Thankfully, and well, logically, that’s all set to change. 

As a journalist in the gambling sector, I already knew about New York’s lack of casinos before I set off there – the mock incredulity above was written simply for the sake of narrative impact.

I also knew that plans were already in the works, with Times Square touted as one of a handful of possible locations for the city to finally add casino gaming to its list of entertainment options.

And for me, it can’t come a moment too soon.

As well as keeping New Yorkers in-state to do their gambling (at present, they presumably face the indignity of making the hours-long pilgrimage to Atlantic City, New Jersey in order to do so), it would create jobs and tax revenues and would further increase the list of entertainment options available to the city’s national and international visitors.

The author considers his life choices as he enjoys a $30 reuben

But perhaps most importantly, it would prevent idiots like me, who have a tendency to forget where they are, from an embarrassing run-in with the Boys in Blue.

NB: For those concerned, let me confirm that no alcoholic beverages were wasted during the research I undertook for this article.

In typical New York rule-bending style, when I asked the officers if they wanted me to throw my can away, they assured me: “Oh no, you can chug it.” 

I then tried my best to choke down a full pint of lightly alcoholic sparkling water, now somehow encouraged to binge drink by the men that were meant to hold me to account for my poor etiquette around alcohol consumption.

New York City: Rebranded

If one thing defines my experience of New York, it is precisely that irony.

You cannot drink in the street, unless you’re standing right next to the police, in which case, “you can chug it.” 

You can pay $40 for a cocktail served under an aromatic fog, but if you try to take a photo of it, your server will bark “DON’T TAKE MY PICTURE” at you.

You can spend hundreds of dollars in a Michelin-starred restaurant only to leave disappointed and hungry, or throw down seven bucks in a Chick-fil-A and eat the best meal of your life.

It is a town built entirely on business and entertainment, but it does not have a casino. 

The bankers on Wall Street can wager your future away, but you can’t gamble $50 on a cash game of Texas Hold’Em.

And thus, I submit my rebrand pitch to the New York Office for Tourism (if such an institution exists). 

Instead of the City That Never Sleeps, New York shall henceforth be known, to me at least, as the City That Never Makes Sense.

Similar posts