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Capital Region officials want voters to pass casino gambling extension

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Rochester: Capital Region officials want voters to pass casino gambling extension
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Officials from the Capital Region are calling on voters to pass an extension of casino gambling here in New York. The region is one of three that are eligible for the first round of casinos. Thursday, mayors and business leaders explained how they think the area would benefit. Nick Reisman has the story.

NEW YORK STATE -- A coalition of business groups and private sector labor says it's time to expand commercial gambling in New York and they're prepared to spend millions to convince voters a constitutional amendment should be approved next month.

"The Business Council has been out front in support of this for at least 18 months and the time to spend your money is right before the election," said Heather Briccetti, Business Council President and CEO.

The group New York Jobs Now contends an expansion of casino gambling beyond the state's Indian tribes and video lottery terminals will mean millions of dollars for the state, lower property taxes and more money for schools. That argument is also reflected in the official language of the ballot amendment voters will see in November. But supporters insist the language is not overly optimistic on the impact of casinos.

Briccetti said, "I disagree with the assertion that it is a rosy picture. I think it says what the purpose of the amendment is for, what it will be used for."

The referendum language tells voters casino gambling will help schools, lower taxes and create jobs. None are necessarily guarantees, skeptics argue and the language is being challenged in state court. Governor Andrew Cuomo supports the casino expansion, but said it was the Board of Elections who wrote the language.

"The board of elections actually writes and votes on the language that expresses the legislation and that's what was done here."

And proponents of casinos argue gamblers are going to casinos now, they're just not going to New York.

"If people are going to want to gamble, they're going to gamble. They're going to find a place to go to whether it's in this state or out of state," said Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings.

If the amendment is approved, four casinos would be built in the first round of construction. The casinos would be limited to the Catskills, the Capital Region and the Southern Tier.

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