Lawsuit claims casino referendum paints rosy picture of gambling
Joseph Spector, ROC 4:50 p.m. EDT October 1, 2013
A lawsuit was filed today against the upcoming casino proposition on the Nov. 5 ballot, claiming the ballot language takes an advocacy position on the issue.
Critics of the casino referendum have knocked the language on the ballot, saying it takes too rosy of a picture of the potential of casino gambling in New York. The referendum would allow up to seven casinos in New York, with the first four to be built in the Southern Tier, Albany area and Catskills.
Eric Snyder, a Brooklyn attorney, filed the lawsuit today in state Supreme Court in Albany, saying the amendment "constitutes the use of public money to advocate the position of a public institution, in violation of the New York State Constitution."
He also argues that the state Board of Elections went outside its authority when "it added this advocacy language to the amendment."
The language on the referendum seems to matter, a Siena College poll Monday found. Voters were split when asked if the state should allow for the development of non-Indian, Las Vegas style casinos, Siena said.
But when voters polled by Siena were asked the exact question on the ballot -- which boosts of job growth, tax revenue and aid to schools that casinos could bring -- support grew to 55 percent to 42 percent, the poll found.
The state Board of Elections declined comment, saying it has yet to review the lawsuit.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature agreed in June to seek a constitutional change to legalize casinos; the change requires voter approval.
A group of union leaders, developers and politicians said Monday they would form a coalition to promote the referendum.
The proposition states that voters would “allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated.”
Cuomo last week said he had nothing to do with how the proposition was worded. The state Board of Elections approved the wording, and the proposition is the first of six on the ballot.
“I haven’t studied the language to tell you the truth,” Cuomo told reporters. “I’m aware of the commentary, but I’m also aware there’s commentary on everything.”