ALBANY – New York voters on Tuesday approved the state’s largest-ever expansion of casino gambling, believing a promise by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that the new betting halls will bring jobs to upstate and hundreds of millions of tax dollars a year to the state and localities.
Helped by a last-minute rush of $4 million from casino companies and unions to fund TV ads and mailings, passage of Proposition One will change the wording of the state constitution’s longtime ban on commercial casino gambling and permit the state to award up to seven licenses for what Cuomo says will be destination-style casinos.
“What a great day for the Hudson Valley and Catskills region and it’s a day people have been waiting for here for 30 years,” said Michael Treanor, one of the investors in the Nevele Hotel, a shuttered, historic Catskills resort that is among several in the running for one of the initial four of seven casino licenses.
Critics say New York, already home to 15 casinos at tracks and Indian reservations, will come to learn the lessons of other states that so dramatically expanded gambling.
“It continues what I call the addiction of government to predatory gambling as a revenue source,” said Stephen Shafer, chairman of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York.
Incomplete results showed the casino measure running with support from a majority of voters in New York City, where casino forces and Cuomo allies focused their campaign efforts, but facing some roadblocks with voters in Erie County and some other upstate counties. The plan would allow up to seven casinos statewide, though none in Western New York and two other upstate areas, under a deal Cuomo struck this year with Indian tribes running existing casinos.
In less-closely watched statewide ballot propositions, a measure permitting a land swap between the state and a mining company in the constitutionally protected Adirondack forest preserve was leading in early results Tuesday night. A plan to increase to 80 the retirement age for some state judges, however, was being rejected by voters, with not all votes counted.
A proposal to give disabled veterans additional credits on civil service exams was winning in early returns, as was a referendum measure to solve a century-old land-title dispute between the state and a couple-hundred landowners in an Adirondacks town. A measure to let localities break debt ceilings to pay for sewer construction programs also was expected to pass.