Gambling Referendum Question Fools N.Y. Voters

ALBANY (AP) -

Unusually rosy wording of the referendum for Nov. 5 to legalize casinos appears to have loaded the dice for approval in New York, according to a poll released Monday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders facing a split electorate are promising jobs, tax cuts and school aid if voters approve the casino measure they want. All those benefits are disputed. But earlier this month, politicians eager for a yes vote rewrote the referendum anyway.

When the Siena College poll asked voters without the spin if they favored authorizing casinos, they were split at 46 percent. But when shown the glowing wording, 55 percent approved it.

“Clearly the wording on the ballot for the casino amendment matters,” said Steven Greenberg of the Siena poll.

An earlier draft of the referendum included no promises of tax breaks, or more school aid or jobs. Those disputed claims also aren’t in the law the referendum is supposed to reflect. But the Cuomo administration and legislative leaders quietly recast the question over the summer.

The casino deal is a major element of Cuomo’s effort to resurrect the long moribund upstate economy, an effort that eluded the past three governors. He needs voters to amend the state constitution, which prohibits casinos off Indian land.