Press-Republican

October 9, 2013

Government leaders urge support for proposition to add more casinos

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — State and local leaders are urging New York voters to support a statewide proposition this November that would allow construction of four new casinos.

“There is a benefit to the state and a benefit to Clinton County, and we encourage people to vote ‘yes’ for this,” State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said at a news conference Tuesday at the Clinton County Government Center.

The proposition, if approved, would allow four new Las Vegas-style casinos to be built by developers in three regions of Upstate: the Catskills, the Finger Lakes and the Capital District.

One of those regions would get two casinos.

SHARED REVENUE

Revenue from the new sites would be shared by counties, potentially bringing in more than $420 million statewide, and about 10,000 new jobs could be created, according to New York Jobs Now, a group supporting passage of the proposition.

Locally, more than $16 million would go to seven North Country counties per year.

The deal would also allow for the existing St. Regis Mohawk tribal casino at Akwesasne to operate without direct competition, as none of the four new casinos would be built near the Hogansburg venue.

Little said that bringing this proposition to the voters will benefit the North Country, as well as the rest of the state, and would regulate gaming.

“The state is getting a handle on gaming in the state,” she said.

“Having this on the ballot has brought (the) other (existing) casinos to the table.”

EDUCATION, TAX RELIEF

The revenue generated from the new casinos would be earmarked for education and reducing property taxes for local municipalities.

Clinton County would get about $1.3 million for area school districts and $669,095 in government aid to reduce taxes, if voters approve the proposition and the casinos are built.

Essex County would receive an estimated $400,712 in education aid and $319,257 in government aid.

Franklin County would bring in a projected $1,080,407 in school aid and $3,187,500 in government aid. Franklin County’s money includes the $3.5 million it receives from the Mohawks under a 2004 agreement to share revenue from the Mohawk’s Hogansburg casino.

PAYMENTS RESUMED

Payments from the  Mohawks to Franklin County stopped in 2010, when St. Regis Tribe objected to slot machines being operated at Ganienkeh Territory, another Mohawk establishment in Altona in Clinton County.

As part of the negotiations for developing the proposition on adding four new casinos, the Akwesasne Mohawks agreed to resume their payments to Franklin and St. Lawrence counties this summer, Little said. That money is shared with the towns of Bombay, Fort Covington, Brasher and Massena.

The Ganienkeh issue remains unsolved.

“We’ve been trying to work on it, but we haven’t gotten anywhere,” Little said.

SPENDING IN STATE

Approving the proposition for four new casinos would mean that more New Yorkers would stay home to gamble rather than travel out of state, as they do now, she said.

According to New York Jobs Now, New Yorkers spend about $1.2 billion per year at gambling establishments in Canada, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas said his county is in full support of the proposition.

“This means revenue to our schools and our county,” he said.

“We are constantly walking a fine line and juggling services with revenue. These are trying times for everybody.”

In addition to the 10,000 jobs that could be created, the new casinos are expected to bring New York City residents upstate to gamble, since none of the four casinos would be built in the city area.

PROPOSITIONS

Little said the state is doing its best to notify voters of not only the gaming proposition on the ballot but the five other propositions, one of which involves a land swap that would benefit NYCO Minerals in Willsboro.

Because there are so many this year, the propositions will be on the back of the paper ballot.

“The trick is to get them (voters) to turn the page,” Little said.

“I know there is opposition to gambling, but I think the support for this is there.”

‘CHAIN OF MISERY’

Stephen Shafer of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York, said adding more casinos would put more people at risk to become problem gamblers.

“Most people who go to a casino do not have a problem, but there are some that it can start the chain of misery and untold woe to families, and it can be a burden on society,” he told the Press-Republican.

Shafer also said that using gambling to raise revenue is not a sound method because of the “hidden costs” of dealing with problem gamblers.

“It’s a cosmetic way of bringing revenue in,” he said.

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com