Niagara Gazette — ALBANY — New York voters bet big Tuesday on casino gambling as an economic energy shot, agreeing to let seven Las Vegas-style gaming palaces be built around the state, including eventually in New York City.
The measure failed in Niagara County by a 16,315 to 15,885 vote.
In a measure that became a referendum on the job-creating potential and social price of gambling, a constitutional amendment allowing the casinos was approved 57 percent to 43 percent, with 60 percent of the vote counted.
The vote was a major win for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who proposed casinos as a way to aid the long-distressed upstate economy. The first four casinos would be built upstate, at sites to be chosen by developers. A New York City casino would be built in seven years and possibly more could be built in the suburbs, although some casino operators say the law could allow that sooner.
But while Cuomo hailed the measure as a way to generate jobs and tax revenue — his administration even reworded the ballot language to emphasize those disputed benefits — critics from progressive good-government groups to the state Conservative Party and the state's Roman Catholic bishops warned that the governor's projections were inflated and the social cost to families and communities would be profound.
The Democratic governor secured broad support among organizations that would get a piece of the gambling revenue, including businesses hoping for spinoff effects and unions that would benefit from construction and more school aid. Cuomo framed the referendum not as a question on gambling, but as a way to capture what he said is $1.2 billion a year in current gambling revenue that New Yorkers now spend at casinos elsewhere, including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Canada.
"We are putting New York state in a position to have those dollars spent here in our communities, which will benefit our local economies and tourism industries, as well as support education and property tax relief," Cuomo said.