Opponents and supporters of a ballot issue to expand casino gambling in New York State were hoping to swell their ranks Thursday, just days out from the election, when voters will make the final decision.
Opponents planned to launch an outreach campaign to voters with leaflets and media ads in advance of Tuesday’s election. They said casinos wouldn’t bring the economic benefits supporters are touting, and they criticized the language on the ballot used to describe the proposed constitutional amendment.
According to the ballot, the amendment would allow the creation of up to seven casinos “for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated.”
State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) said the description was “written in such a way as to incorrectly bias the voter toward voting yes and is not a completely truthful and accurate statement.” She said that having more casinos would also bring more social ills, including gambling addiction.
In an unusual political pairing, Krueger and state Conservative Party chairman Mike Long are joined in opposing the poll issue.
But a judge earlier this month dismissed a legal challenge to the rewording of the referendum, saying the lawsuit was filed too late and lacked legal merit.
A kol korei signed by 15 prominent Rabbanim urged voters to reject the referendum on casinos, “which pose great spiritual and material danger to our people.”
New York already has five full-fledged casinos on Indian land. The proposal would bring in an additional seven casinos, including four in the Catskills, which swells each summer with tens of thousands of Orthodox Jewish families and a large population of upper-elementary and high-school-age campers.
Asked whether new casinos would create new problems with gambling addiction, Michael Mulgrew, president of the teachers’ union, said the casinos would simply keep in the state those New Yorkers who are currently spending $1.2 billion a year gambling out of state, and that they would bring in sorely needed education money.
Campaign finance filings show the pro-casino lobbyists receiving more than $2 million in contributions from gambling interests and the teachers’ union.