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The Telegram
  • Rosy wording of NY casino referendum challenged

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  • A judge has set an Oct. 11 date to hear a lawsuit that challenges the rosy language the Cuomo administration and Legislature have used in a November referendum to authorize seven Las Vegas-style casinos in New York.
    The court date was set in state Supreme Court in Albany on Wednesday in attorney Eric Snyder’s lawsuit against the state Board of Elections, which approved the measure for the ballot, Snyder told The Associated Press.
    The referendum was rewritten over the summer from a traditional, bare-bones question to voters, the AP previously reported. The ballot question now promises jobs, more school aid and lower taxes, all of which are disputed.
    Cuomo had no immediate comment Wednesday. He says his casino initiative will bring jobs and $1 billion in revenue to the state. Opponents cite the cost of casinos in tax dollars for public safety and addiction recovery programs and the stress on families. Good-government groups also are concerned about the flow of campaign contributions from wealthy casino operators.
    In addition, the lawsuit contests the placement of the casino question as the first referendum issue. Normally, the questions to voters are placed in the same order that the Legislature approves the measure for the ballot. In this case, the casino referendum was adopted last, but given the prime top spot, Snyder argues.
    Snyder said in an interview Wednesday that he is acting on his own behalf as an opponent of casino gambling and a taxpayer in seeking to stop the referendum question from being on Nov. 5 general election ballots.
    “I am against casino gambling in general, but the language to me was so partisan I felt I had to act,” he said. “I felt that was an inappropriate use of public funds and the Board of Elections also acted outside their authority.”
    The lawsuit was filed Tuesday, the day a Siena College poll found the new language worked to gain support for one of Cuomo’s top upstate economic development initiatives. New Yorkers were split on the issue at 46 percent when they were previously polled on the ballot question written without promises of benefits. When the benefits were added to the question, 55 percent supported the casino measure.
    Siena’s Steven Greenberg said the wording clearly influence voters.
    This week, New York’s Catholic bishops joined the religious and conservative movement against casino gambling that criticized the wording of the referendum.
    “When looking at potential sources for new revenue, it is the responsibility of government and the voting public to consider all of the consequences, both positive and negative,” the bishops stated. “While the language on the ballot cites the hoped-for economic benefits, we feel obligated to ask for a more definitive statement as to how and where the money generated by these casinos will be spent.”
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