Coalition promotes casino amendment, as judge set to hear lawsuit

Oct 11, 2013

The push for passage of a ballot amendment to allow up to seven new gambling casinos in New York has begun. A coalition of business leaders, labor unions, and local elected officials are holding press conferences across the state. They expect to run some TV ads, as well.

The name of the coalition says nothing about gambling casinos -- instead it’s called New York Jobs Now. Business Council President Heather Briccetti said the new resort-style casinos proposed will bring employment to economically depressed areas.

“We believe that the passage of this proposal will result in job creation in New York state,” Briccetti said.

Local mayors and county executives across the state, including Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, said they back the amendment because host communities will receive millions of dollars in revenue from the gambling centers for tax relief.   

“This is a no brainer,” Jennings said.

Jennings says some of the $11 million in revenue expected for the region will be used to help treat problem gamblers. He said people are already gambling at out of state casinos, and addicts are coming home to New York with their problems. He said this way there will be money available to treat them.   

The coalition has around $2 million to spend, according to Briccetti, and will be more visible in the coming weeks leading up to the Nov. 5 election, with TV ads and direct mailings.

Meanwhile, a New York State Supreme Court judge later on Friday will hear a challenge to the wording of the ballot amendment itself. The actual amendment that voters will see does not use the word gambling. It instead asks whether there should be up to seven casinos for the purpose of “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes."

Brooklyn Attorney Eric Snyder, who filed the lawsuit, said he was against gambling to begin with, believing it is a regressive tax. He said he became even more concerned when he saw the amendment language.

“I just thought it was inappropriate,” Snyder said. “It was so partisan.”

Briccetti defends the wording. She said jobs, school aid, and tax cuts are the purpose of the building of the new casinos.

“I don’t see that as nefarious in any way,” Briccetti said.  

Snyder is bringing his lawsuit against the New York State Board of Elections, which authorized the wording, after consulting with the governor and the legislature. The board argues that Snyder filed his suit too late, and that cases must be brought within 14 days of the vote to place amendments on the ballot. But the Board of Elections did not place the actual amendment language on its website until more than three weeks after the vote.

The judge will decide whether the case will be allowed to go forward, with less than a month left until Election Day.