New York gambles with voting to allow casinos in Tuesday’s election

New York City could make up to $94 million for city schools if it votes to allow the casinos to be built.
New York City could make up to $94 million for city schools if it votes to allow the casinos to be built.

New Yorkers will decide on Tuesday the fate of a controversial ballot proposal to legalize casinos in certain areas of New York state.

Proposal 1 would establish up to seven casino resorts in New York. The first four would be upstate and the other three wouldn’t be allowed for seven years.

Although the casinos are isolated to four areas of the state, all cities and townships in the state would get increased education aid or lower property taxes because of the tax revenue the casinos are expected to bring in.

New York City, in particular, has been promised more than $94 million in tax revenue from the new casinos for city schools. An additional $83 million is intended for schools in New York City suburbs.

Prop 1′s supporters highlight the strict regulations written into the bill: the minimum gambling age will be 21; there will be no smoking allowed in casinos;

They also note de facto casinos already exist in New York, with digital slot machines at race tracks and other gambling venues.

The bill’s detractors vary widely: it has brought together such unlikely partners as steadfast liberal Sen. Liz Krueger and Mike Long, the chairman of state Conservative Party. The New York Times and the New York Post have both published editorials in opposition to it, with the Post calling legalized gambling “essentially a tax on the poor.”

That is a major concern for the bill’s opponents: the notion that to profit off of gamblers is to profit off of vulnerable people spending money they don’t actually have.

But the bill’s supporters point to funding built into the legislation specifically for addiction programs.

And they argue that New Yorkers are already gambling, they’re just spending their money out-of-state, at places like Atlantic City.

Stu Loeser, spokesman for the pro-casino group NY Jobs Now said New Yorkers spend 1.2 billion dollars a year at resort casinos in nearby states.

The bill’s supporters are largely pro-labor and education groups, including strong backing from the United Teachers Federation. Both mayoral candidates support the referendum.

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio in a statement called the referendum ” a win-win for New York.”

“Our neighbors upstate will benefit from the jobs created, and New York City will receive new revenue to support education,” de Blasio said in the statement.

The referendum’s supporters dismissed allegations that the casinos will lead to increased gambling addiction, which will then lead to more people relying on welfare from the state.

“The way to keep families out of poverty is to create good-paying jobs with benefits, and Proposition One would create at least 10,000 jobs in New York state,” Loeser said. “These are jobs that pay in the area of 50 or 60,000 a year, which is a lot of money in areas of the state which have few other economic engines.”

 


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