New York casino fight heats up

February 9, 2013 10:10 am

New York voters have yet to approve a measure to allow more casinos in the state and already the backroom wheeling and dealing has begun.

State and local lawmakers, as well as other gambling interests, are fighting over where the casinos will be located. Some towns want the casinos and some don’t. Considering some casinos can extract in more than $1 million a day from gamblers – while sparking a variety of social and economic costs – the fight has just begun. So has the lobbying and campaign giving designed to influence the final outcome, which will have little to do with the stated reasons for casinos.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the main political leader pushing the state’s gambling expansion, which, if approved, is expected to eventually result in seven casinos across the state. But he doesn’t want lawmakers or voters to know where the casinos will be located before voting on a measure to change the state Constitution, which currently prohibits commercial casinos. That’s like asking voters to approve a new highway or landfill without telling them where it will be located. Talk about keeping taxpayers in the dark.

The line of the day goes to Cuomo who, in explaining why he doesn’t want the legislature to have any input in the location of the casinos, said “I am going to have nothing to do with a politically driven process.”

What a load of malarkey. Cuomo’s entire push for casinos has been a “politically driven process.” Heck, Cuomo didn’t even mention casinos when he ran for governor. But he got interested in the idea around the time, casinos operators started donating big bucks to a nonprofit tied to Cuomo. He has – so far – steered clear of a casino in Manhattan in order to ensure political support. Then Cuomo limited the first round of casinos to upstate in an effort to limit opposition and win votes. In short, Cuomo is driving the political process. 

The real reason for the secrecy is two-fold: Cuomo and Co. know that most people don’t want a casino in their backyard. So better to keep that quiet until the Constitution is changed and it is too late. Plus, the more lawmakers drag out the process, the more casino interests will spend on campaign contributions to influence votes in Albany. The whole process is shameless, especially when the ultimate goal is to get residents to lose billions a year gambling.

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