While Jay Farber and Ryan Riess were playing for $8.3 million in Las Vegas, New York voters were deciding if they could bring Las Vegas to the Empire State. A constitutional amendment allowing the construction of seven Las Vegas-style casinos passed Tuesday night after a controversial campaign. WIVB.com reported that the measure passed by 57 percent
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been the primary proponent of the bill, hailing it as a way to aid the struggling New York economy. The bill would see the first casino built in New York over the next seven years, with more to come. Construction on casinos will start in upstate New York and then expand. Plans for a New York City casino are also being considered.
At present, an estimated $1.2 billion a year is being spent by New York citizens in casinos in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Canada. According to Cuomo, the bill is “putting New York state in a position to have those dollars spent here in our communities, which will benefit our local economies and tourism industries, as well as support education and property tax relief.”
Initially, the state is expected to bring in around $430 million in revenue. Approximately $238 million of that will go towards the state’s education fund and the rest will go to the communities hosting the casinos. Those community funds will go towards lowering local taxes and cover social costs associated with the casino.
Although the amendment pass on Tuesday, some felt that voters had been overly influenced by lawmakers after a series of initiatives were put in place to garner support. First, the language of the bill was reworded to stress the stress the economic impact of the referendum. After promising jobs, school aid, and tax relief, the reworded proposal had a 55 percent approval rating.
Another move made by the state’s Board of Elections was to put the bill up at the top of the ballot as opposed to the bottom. Historical research has proven that the top position receives a much more favorable response. Gov. Cuomo also guaranteed exclusive gambling territories for Indian tribes that already operate casinos in the state.
The referendum was not without its challenges, but most voters did not hear these objections in the middle of the TV blitz supporting the campaign. New York Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long described the movement as “the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the taxpayers of the state of New York.”
The Empire Center for Public Policy published an analysis entitled “A Sucker’s Bet” where they stated that benefit to the state was be minimal. Their best estimate put job growth as a result of the bill at less than half a percent. In addition, they estimate that revenue from casinos will only boost the state’s education fund by 1 percent.