Amid reports linking them to horse deaths, racinos push education and jobs money

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And they're off at the Aqueduct. (Fred Dreier)
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Today, the New York Times detailed the role that slot-machine gambling has played in elevating the number of horse deaths at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

According to the paper, "Since a casino opened at Aqueduct late last year, offering vastly richer prizes, 30 horses have died racing there, a 100 percent increase in the fatality rate over the same period the previous year."

On Sunday, the Times reported that the New York Racing Association, a public-benefit corporation that operates the Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont racetracks, has knowingly withheld nearly $8.5 million in winnings from bettors.

Perhaps seeking to dampen the impact of the imminent bad press, the day before, the New York Gaming Association, an association of the state's nine racinos, tweeted out two reports highlighting the industry's contributions to education and economic health.

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The first report, on education, estimates that by the end of 2012, racinos—racetracks coupled with slot machine parlors—will have generated more than $3 billion to be put toward New York State education.

The second report highlights the industry's creation of unionized jobs: "While awaiting final action by the Legislature and the voters, New York’s nine racetrack casinos are already developing plans for a series of major private investments to upgrade and expand their existing facilities. As of January 2012, the total cost of these investments was estimated at more than $1.8 billion." 

That $1.8 billion will, according to the report, generate 17,000 jobs.

The racinos need to make this sort of argument if they are going win any of the possible seven table-gambling licenses that will be available if the state passes a constitutional amendment legalizing table games like poker and blackjack. There will be fewer licenses than there are currently racinos, and a number of outside operators are trying to get into the game, like Wynn Resorts and Boyd Gaming.