12:10 pm Feb. 21, 2013
New Yorkers are mildly supportive of legalizing Las Vegas-style casinos in New York State and would like to have a say in their locations, according to a new poll conducted on behalf of an organization that advocates for just that.
Joel Benenson, President Obama's pollster and also Council Speaker Christine Quinn's, polled 600 New Yorkers statewide earlier this month on behalf of New Yorkers for Local Approval of Casinos.
The group got its seed money from the Oneida Indian Nation, which runs Turning Stone casino and would, presumably, like to avoid any competition in the vicinity should Governor Andrew Cuomo succeed in passing a state amendment to legalize up to seven full-scale casinos.
In contrast to his stance on hydrofracking, Cuomo doesn't support the idea that local communities should be able to approve, or vote down, a new casino in their area.
Here's how Tom Precious described Cuomo's stance on the matter in the Buffalo News:
Under Cuomo’s plan, it would appear voters in a statewide referendum might not know what locations the state had in mind for casino developments at the time of their vote. “They could know regions or parts of the state, but I wouldn’t limit it by picking a location because that assumes you’re picking the best location from a market point of view. I would leave it to the operators, the experts, to say you tell me within these regions of the state where you think the best market is, where would you site it to maximize economic opportunities, maximize job growth, etc,’’ the governor added.
Cuomo was down on the idea of letting local communities hold their own votes after any statewide referendum to approve or disapprove a casino being located in their areas. He said the “will of the communities’’ can be included, for instance, in any competition the state might hold for operators interested in coming to New York.
“So, I believe communities should have a voice. Whether or not it’s a vote, I don’t know whether I’d get into elections and holding elections, but the feeling of the community is relevant and important,’’ he said.
Benenson's poll, released today, indicates that while 54 percent of voters initially indicated they would approve a constitutional amendment legalizing up to seven casinos, they would also like to have a say in where those casinos are located.
Fifty-nine percent of those polled agreed with the following statement, “Albany shouldn't expand gambling without communities being protected and given a vote in the process. Albany shouldn't dictate where to locate Atlantic City style casinos that can harm communities. Before the Governor asks any New Yorker to vote yes on his amendment, every New Yorker should know where these seven casinos will be and be guaranteed that every community will have a local referendum to decide whether to have a casino built in their neighborhood.”
Upon further questioning, that 54 percent casino-approval number proved tenuous.
According to Benenson, after voters listened to the messaging coming from proponents and opponents of gambling legalization, 73 percent said they would vote against it.
Yet, 59 percent of voters also said a provision allowing local communities to approve casinos would make them more likely to vote for the amendment.
"The amendment has some significant vulnerabilities," said Benenson, during a call with reporters.
A constitutional amendment requires the approval of two successive state legislatures and a voter referendum.
Last year, the legislature offered the first of those approvals. Including a new provision to allow for local approval would not restart the process, said Michael Tobman, a spokesman for the group.
According to Benenson, initiatives that are successfull usually start out with more than 60 percent support.
"This amendment has some weaknesses right on the outset," said Benenson, adding, " And in fact, without a local control provision, supporters of this amendment are left with virtually no path to victory."
Benenson did not immediately release the relevant crosstabs.
And the Cuomo administration had no immediate comment.