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Palladino: Mets’ Casino Proposal Was Bad Idea From Beginning

Citi Field (credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Citi Field (credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

So the Mets ownership combination of Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, that veritable fountain of fantastic ideas, once came up with a new way to recoup their expected losses from the Bernie Madoff mess.

Slap a casino right next to Citi Field.

Fantastic! The folks who brought you significant cuts in payroll were hoping to build something that would have replenished — and more — the $162 million they eventually lost after hitching their financial wagon to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Talk about getting it all back in one shot!

There were just a couple of problems with that. For one thing, the Vegas-style table gambling Wilpon and Katz were looking for isn’t legal in New York. It may just be a matter of time before that situation reverses itself, however, as the state legislature is considering a constitutional amendment to allow such things. It may or may not come to fruition, but at least the possibility is there.

There was an even more serious concern, though, and it goes to baseball’s 10 commandments. MLB forbids gambling. It’s right there between “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not ignore thy third base coach’s bunt sign.” More than steroids, more than HGH, more than corked bats, baseball sees gambling as the be-all and end-all of evil, for good reason.

Players and managers gambling cuts into the game’s credibility. People want assurance that the games are on the up-and-up. Gambling takes that away. As a result, gamblers face baseball’s stiffest punishment — permanent banishment. And if you don’t believe it, just ask the game’s greatest hitter, Pete Rose. They caught him betting on games during his managerial career.

The man who finished with 4,256 hits still doesn’t have a plaque in the Hall of Fame. And he never will as long as MLB stands by the lifetime ban.

So, yeah, stick a casino right next to a baseball stadium? Capital idea.

It was part of the original concept for the Willets Point development project. That area was due for a cleanup, anyway, what with all those body-and-fender joints and chop shops. It’s a real blight on what could be a decent neighborhood.

So they wanted to throw a casino there. A nice one, too. The Shinnecock Indian Nation would operate it. One would have found the slots, as well as the typical table games like craps, roulette, baccarat, and poker; all the things you’d find in Caesar’s Palace.

Along with that would be all the temptations a young player looking for a little postgame excitement would need. Wander on over across the street and place a few bets at the tables, then hit the sports books that are inevitably part of these enterprises for a few innocent wagers on college football, pro basketball, or the Rockies, or the Yanks.

See where this is going? They thought the fallout from Madoff was bad? What if a rostered lunkhead got caught in their gaming hall?

Actually, Wilpon and Katz wouldn’t even have to own it. Just throwing a few dollars toward the building and operation of it would present a troublesome connection enough.

Whether or not table-gaming becomes legal in New York in the near future is irrelevant here. It was just a bad idea, and the city told them so. The retail center plan in the works will gradually replenish their coffers. Perhaps not as fast as a casino — the odds are always with the house, remember — but it won’t cause them any undue headaches, either.

A casino right next to Citi Field?

Not too bright, guys.

Your first thoughts when you read about the 2011 casino proposal? Let us know in the comments…