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Casino fever takes hold; A push for Proposition One

Legislator Ira Steingart listens as Cindy Gieger explains why she can’t support a resolution that urges the public to vote yes on Proposition One.
TRR photos by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
August 21, 2013

Proposition One on the ballot in the November election will be a question as to whether voters in the state want to alter the state constitution to allow non-Indian Class III gaming in the state. If the voters approve, that would open the way for four casinos to open in three regions in the state, the Capital Region, the Finger Lakes and the Catskills. One of the regions would be able to open two casinos.

Business people, elected officials, union members and residents turned out in the hundreds on August 14 at The Sullivan in Rock Hill to pick up lawn signs, buttons and other materials urging the public to vote yes on Proposition One.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther told the crowd, “From Long Island to Buffalo, we need everybody to participate, because we all gain when this referendum is passed. We’re going to teach people to turn the ballot over and vote yes on Prop One.”

In the initial years of the proposed plan, there will be no casinos in New York City and other downstate locations, but casino supporters are hoping that the lure of new dollars for education will be enough to encourage down-state voters to support the proposition.

Tax revenues from the new casinos would be split, with 80% being used statewide to help pay for elementary and secondary education or property tax relief, 10% split between the town and county, and 10% going to other counties in the region.

County legislature chairman Scott Samuelson also addressed the crowd. He said, “What impresses me most is the diversity [of the audience]—young, old, it looks like we have some second home-owners, we’ve got everybody here. Everybody is looking for the same thing, economic development and a better future for our community.”

There was a heavy union presence in the gathering, with many members of various unions wearing T-shirts that supported Proposition One. Sam Fratto, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 363 and vice president of the Hudson Valley Building Trades Council, said he and his members were there because a yes vote will mean jobs for his members; but he also stressed that all school districts in the state would benefit, and after years of austerity, all schools could use a boost from casino revenues.