Unusually rosy wording of the referendum to legalize Las Vegas-type casinos appears to have loaded the dice for approval in New York, according to a poll released Monday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders facing a split electorate are promising jobs, tax cuts and school aid if voters approve the casino measure they want. All those benefits are disputed. But The Associated Press found earlier this month that the politicians had rewritten the referendum anyway to coax "yes" votes.
When the Siena College poll asked voters without the political spin if they favored authorizing severalcasinos, New York voters were split at 46 percent.
But when shown the glowing wording of the referendum, 55 percent approved it.
"Clearly the wording on the ballot for the casino amendment matters," said Steven Greenberg of the Siena poll.
Voters are divided on whether they think the question is worded fairly. Fifty-one percent say it is, while 43 percent agreed "it only includes arguments in support, ignoring arguments in opposition." The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. It questioned 807 registered voters from Sept. 22-26.
Good-government advocates and newspaper editorials statewide had criticized the political spin in the question to be put to voters on the November ballot.
In a Sept. 16 editorial, the Poughkeepsie Journal called the political spin "incredible.... they apparently are trying to dupe New York voters."
The AP had obtained an earlier draft of the referendum. It included no promises of tax breaks, or more school aid or jobs. Those disputed claims also aren't included in the law the referendum is supposed to reflect. But the Cuomo administration and legislative leaders recast the question to voters over the summer without announcing changes.
The casino deal is a major element of Cuomo's effort to resurrect the long moribund upstate economy, an effort that eluded the past three governors. He needs voters to amend the state constitution, which prohibits casinos off Indian land. But he and the Legislature have also passed a law that if voters reject Las Vegas-type casinos, the state will proceed with expanding electronic gambling sites called racinos that offer video slot machines and electronic table games.
Cuomo declined to comment Monday.