Niagara Gazette

September 15, 2013

GLYNN: Critics say ballot slanted for casinos

By DON GLYNN don.glynn@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Voters often ask why they’ve never been given a chance to express their opinion on legalizing casino gambling. 

The reason: State lawmakers who debated the issue for decades — the delay due in large part to the upstate vs. downstate bickering — failed to pass the measure twice as required under the State Constitution.

Now a referendum is finally in place for the November election. In fact, the item will be No. 1 on the short list that appears above the candidate lines. The problem is, critics contend, the ballot’s couched in language that puts a positive spin on the overall issue.

If you read it carefully, the wording is aimed at drawing a yes vote. After all, who’s going to vote against “promoting job growth, increasing aid to education and enabling local governments to lower property taxes”? That’s more spin than a roulette wheel, as one observer said.

Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group raises a valid point: “If you’re going to have the benefits written in (on the ballot), you should have the minuses too, including gambling addiction.” He adds: “I don’t know if that violates the letter of spirit of the law, but it’s heavily one-sided.”

For the record, the straight-forward, simple message for the voter facing the referendum is: The proposed amendment to Section 9 of Article 1 of the State Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York state.” There was no need for Gov. Andrew Cuomo or his staff to help the Board of Elections write the text to sway voters. A lot of people are convinced that’s what happened.

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ON TOP OF GAME: With another National Football League season under way, there are always fans that would like some help in following the action on the field. Dozens of books have been written by former NFL coaches and players but one of the best is the paperback “Watching Football,” by Daryl “Moose” Johnston, a Youngstown native who played at Syracuse University before extending his star-studded career with the Dallas Cowboys. Now he’s a broadcaster and analyst with Fox Sports. The reviewers have cited Johnston’s moderately-priced book for its informative approach to make the game immensely more interesting for the fans and even “the football widows.”

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Doc Severinsen, former principal pops conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will return to the BPO with a high-energy show Oct. 25-26. Millions of Americans also remember Severinsen as the bandleader from the popular Johnny Carson Tonight Show on NBC. Severinsen’s career has included stints with the Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman bands, and more than 30 recordings ranging from jazz fusion and big band to classical.

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OUT OF THE PAST: That 250th anniversary of the Devil’s Hole Massacre continues today at Old Fort Niagara from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Activities include tours at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. focusing on the fort in Pontiac’s War; an artillery demonstration at 11:30 a.m.; a talk on Frontier Diplomacy at Fort Niagara (1763) and a reveille race for kids at 3:30 p.m. The two-day anniversary program opened Saturday at Devil’s Hole, now a state park.

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TRIVIA QUIZ: Answer to Thursday’s question: Theodore Roosevelt took the presidential oath of office in 1901 at the Wilcox Mansion in Buffalo. The Delaware Avenue landmark is now operated by the National Park Service.

Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.