Casino supporters and opponents talk to the media, past each other
"Mike Long, from the Conservative Party, and myself are not often on the same side," said State Senator Liz Krueger today on the steps of City Hall.
"I don't think ever," said Long.
"Maybe never," said Krueger. "We're gonna have to go back and check."
Krueger is a liberal Upper East Side Democrat who thinks, among other things, that marijuana should be regulated like alcohol.
Long chairs the state Conservative Party, runs a Bay Ridge liquor store, and thinks gay marriage should be illegal.
But today, when Krueger announced her opposition to the Nov. 5 constitutional referendum that would legalize up to seven non-Indian Las Vegas-style casinos in New York State, they found themselves on the same side of a heated issue.
They may not be obvious allies, but nor are any of the other members of the rag-tag, poorly funded referendum-opposition movement.
"Casinos are designed to rip off the people who can least afford it," said Krueger. "They promote gambling addiction, crime, and other social ills that cost us more in the long run."
"We know we're outgunned," said Long. "We know we're being outspent. ... All you have to do is turn on your TV and see the ads for it. But we're counting on the citizens across this great state to understand and not to be fooled by this proposal."
A few blocks away at United Federation of Teachers headquarters, a crowd of 25 or so supporters of the casino proposition were engaging in a show of strength.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has made the legalization of casinos a centerpiece of his upstate economic development strategy, and by promising education aid, reduced property taxes and jobs (and also by cutting deals to neutralize the opposition), he has rallied union leaders, Indian tribes and racino operators to his side.
And so this afternoon, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew and Business Council president Heather Bricetti flanked Harlem assemblyman Keith Wright as he highlighted the purported benefits of Proposition 1.
"Anyone in education can tell you that this will be God-sent and a gift to our children," said Wright.
If the proposal is adopted, it would give the green light for three new casinos upstate, to be followed seven years later by phase two. It's not clear where those casinos will go, but New York City remains the most coveted market.
"Let me be clear, there will be no casino in New York City," asserted Wright today.
Public polls give casino proponents an edge, but referenda are hard to predict, and more than a dozen Orthodox rabbis are urging their followers to vote against the amendment, citing those aforementioned social ills.
When Capital asked Mulgrew if he found that development worrying, he said, "This is why the voters get to choose. This is the United States, everybody has a right to their opinion."