Voters across the state are being asked to legalize gambling in a referendum that will be on the ballot next month, and while it's become a major priority for Governor Andrew Cuomo, efforts to promote it are only ramping up now. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
The state Legislature has already approved casino gambling, but a large hurdle remains: getting approval from the voters.
Polls are showing lukewarm support, and up until now, there hasn't been much of a public relations campaign to get it passed.
"I am a little perplexed, though, by the campaign that has really been non-existent around this amendment," said state Senator Diane Savino, whose district covers parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island. "We're only a few weeks away from Election Day."
That's about to change. Under the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is counting on this casino amendment to spur economic development upstate, a new group called New York Jobs Now will begin promoting the referendum. It's a coalition of business and labor groups with a vested economic interest in seeing it approved.
"The case is pretty clear. There are, in New York City, it's almost $100 million for schools, and yet, no new casinos in New York City or around New York City," said Stu Loeser of New York Jobs Now.
The Cuomo administration did help craft the language of the amendment, which touts the economic benefits of legalized gambling and none of the potential drawbacks. Ballot language is usually more neutral on how issues are presented.
Just this week, the administration estimated that the state will generate $430 million in annual revenue, $95 million of which would go to New York City.
Some groups have already weighed in, including the state's Catholic bishops, who urged caution about the economic benefits.
In a statement the catholic conference said, "It does seem apparent that with all of the gambling options already available here, there is only so much revenue to be gained."
"I think it is important, whoever is raising the issues, to question the underlying assumptions that gambling is an economic win," said state Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan. "Because the fact is, there are winners and there are losers."
The biggest impediment to the referendum passing is not necessarily opposition, but apathy. Even supporters agree that until now, not enough has been done so far to educate voters on the economic benefits.