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State Voters To Be Asked This Fall If They Want To Legalize Gambling

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Although it hasn't received much attention because of all of the New York City races, this fall, voters will be asked if they want to legalize gambling in New York State. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

The state legislature and the governor have now passed laws authorizing up to seven casinos in upstate New York. Voters will have a chance to approve that in an up-or-down vote this November.

But critics say the ballot language explaining what the change to the state constitution will actually do tips the scales.

"The language in the amendment as presented does more than just inform the voters about casino gambling, but really tries to influence their perception of what the amendment will do, and that's wrong," said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union.

The referendum claims that legalized gambling is for the purpose of "promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated."

"What's not true is that the adoption of the amendment will promote job growth," said Stephen Shafer of the Coalition Against Gambling In New York. "It may. It may not."

Officials in Cuomo's press office claimed it's not uncommon to have this kind of language in a ballot proposition. They also say the governor drafted the language along with the legislature and the state attorney general's office. But the original draft from the attorney general's office did not include anything about job growth.

"It's a very controversial issue, and they wanted to put the most positive spin on the appeal of casino gambling in New York State," Dadey said.

In addition, New York City gets no casinos out of the deal, even though a plurality of voters this fall will come from the five boroughs, since residents are voting for mayor and in other local races.

"I think that there's definitely going to be a slant towards New York City, and I think a lot of New York City residents are probably leaning more against because they felt a little left out of the process," said Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder of Queens.

If the referendum fails, the state will authorize the expansion of video lottery terminals in four regions throughout the state, including Nassau County, which could cannibalize some of the business at Resorts World Casino in Queens. Some believe that Cuomo and legislators put that provision in there in order to encourage New York City residents to approve the referendum.

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