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The Times
  • Casino expansion issue in hands of voters Tuesday

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  • On Tuesday, voters across the state will address the question of whether to allow the expansion of gambling.
    The issue is a familiar one in the Mohawk Valley, where the Oneida Indian Nation operates its Turning Stone Resort Casino, and Vernon Downs racetrack features video lottery terminals.
    The proposed legislation would authorize as many as seven casinos in New York state.
    No new casinos would come to the area if voters approve the law.
    That’s because of an agreement reached this spring between the Oneida Nation, state and Oneida and Madison counties that enables the state and counties to share in the revenue generated by the Turning Stone slot machines.
    In exchange, the Nation now has exclusive gambling rights in a 10-county swath of Central New York. Whether or not the gaming proposition succeeds Tuesday, that agreement will hold.
    Several local officials, including Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, recently came out in favor of the proposition.
    “It benefits the entire state,” Picente said. “It’s about different tourist areas around the state.”
    Picente, in the past, has questioned the value of expanded gambling as an economic development tool for upstate New York.
    Last week, he said he had always wanted the issues between the Oneidas, the state and the counties to be resolved before any gambling legislation moved forward.
    Also, he said, gambling isn’t the state’s only economic development plan for the region.
    “My point was that if all you are doing is saying casinos are going to be the rebirth of the economy, that’s not the case,” he said.
    Brindisi, who has also said he doesn’t think gambling is the solution to upstate’s economic woes, called the legislation a “jackpot” for the area.
    He and Picente both pointed to the money area schools could ultimately reap from the statewide money generated from gaming.
    People who oppose the legislation point to studies that show that even though casinos create jobs, the economic development benefit from casinos for the outside community is limited.
    Casino visitors tend to remain inside casinos, eating their meals there and staying in casino hotel rooms. That means the economic ripple effect is limited, opponents say.
    The Oneida Nation has formally come out in support of the amendment.
    “Our position has been pretty clear since the agreement that we are supportive of the referendum and believe that as demonstrated in Central New York that when gaming is done right it can have tremendous economic benefits for local communities and that’s why we are supporting the constitutional amendment,” a Nation statement said.
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