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Coalition Promotes Casino Amendment; Judge To Hear Lawsuit

Christopher Chappelear

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 says that 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, say 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.

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

The coalition has around $2 million dollars to spend, says the Business Council’s Briccetti ,and will be more visible in the coming weeks leading up to the November 5 election, with television ads and direct mailings.

Meanwhile, a State Supreme Court judge 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, says he was against gambling to begin with, believing it is a regressive tax. He says he became even more concerned when he saw the amendment language.

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

Briccetti, with the Business Council, defends the wording. She says 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 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 it’s 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 to Election Day.  

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