If state lawmakers approve casino gambling in New York this legislative session, it could go to voters in a referendum this fall. Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan is to allow casinos upstate to help the economy, but some lawmakers want more say in the process over where casinos are located. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
The fight over where to put casinos has already begun, and voters haven't even given the state the OK yet.
Governor Andrew Cuomo wants an independent commission to make the decision, even though all the members of that commission would be appointed by him.
Legislators want at least some input. They say the public should determine whether or not casinos can be built in their communities.
"There has to be some element of local choice," said Assemblyman William Colton of Brooklyn. "You cannot simply impose this kind of a drastic change upon families in a neighborhood unless they are willing to accept it, unless they are willing to have it."
A new poll says New Yorkers are not overly enthusiastic about legalized gambling in the first place.
"The proposition for the constitutional amendment starts out in a slightly weakened position," said pollster Joel Benenson. "It starts out with only 54 percent of New York likely voters saying they would vote yes. For a ballot amendment, that is a very low number."
The poll was commissioned by New Yorkers for Local Approval of Casinos, which got its seed money from the Oneida Indian nation, which operates its own casino in Central New York near Utica. There are some who believe that even if gambling gets approved by voters in a referendum, it still faces hurdles, including the potential for lawsuits from Indian nations.
"There's going to be a lot of complications, because let's face it, let's be very clear, casinos are big money for those who are building them, who are running them," Colton said. "And when you have big money involved, they are going to fight to protect their interest."
Governor Cuomo is already hinting that some Indian nations could be dealt out.
"In parts of the state where we have contractual agreements in good standing, we will honor those agreements, primarily with the Indian-run casinos," he said. "But the agreements have to be in good standing, which means the agreements must be honored by both parties."
Before it even goes to the voters, the legislature must approve the plan for a second time this session.