Poll shows New Yorkers back Vegas-style casinos

A narrow majority of New Yorkers support legalizing Las Vegas-style casinos throughout the state, ac

A narrow majority of New Yorkers support legalizing Las Vegas-style casinos throughout the state, according to a Siena Research Institute poll released Thursday.

After being asked to weigh the positives and negatives associated with casinos in New York, 57 percent of people polled said they would support a constitutional amendment that would allow casinos to operate statewide on non-Indian land. Currently, casinos are only allowed on Indian reservations and video slot machines are permitted at several horse racing tracks in the state. In order to legalize casinos in New York, there would need to be an amendment to the constitution, which requires a constitutional convention or approval by two consecutively elected state Legislatures and approval by the voters.

“Majorities of Democrats and Republicans, and residents of every region of the state, support allowing Vegas-style casinos to be built here in New York,” institute Director Don Levy said in a news release.

The issue draws the most support among upstate residents, third-party affiliated voters, people making less than $100,000 a year and “avid” fans of casinos. Support for the issue even extends to “non-fans” of casinos, who are split on the issue, with 43 percent in favor of legalization.

This broad base of support might not be all that important now, due to the drawn-out process of amending the constitution through the legislative process, according to Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus. He noted that an amendment through the legislative process would take a minimum of two years, during which time advocates on both sides of the issue would have plenty of time to wage advertising campaigns.

“I think I’m safe in saying that both sides of the issue will spend a lot of money to influence the outcome of the debate,” he said. “So a poll taken in 2011 before that advertising campaign on both sides is just a snapshot. I don’t know whether it has any relevance.”

As for the Chamber’s view on legalizing casinos, Shimkus said it would depend on how the legalization was implemented. Some of the areas of concerns were revenue sharing and reimbursement of municipality costs. “There have been so many different variations on legislation to allow casino gambling,” he pointed out. “Who knows what will come out of Albany?”

If the state does go forward on this issue, Shimkus stressed the importance of a comprehensive plan. He added that this would be particularly important to Saratoga Springs.

State Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, was unmoved by the polling, which he said was in keeping with the last 10 years of polls. “It’s nothing new.”

McDonald, who is neither a proponent nor opponent of legalizing casinos, said his main focus is promoting the existing gambling institutions in his district.

He added that there was no rush to legalize casino gambling in response to actions taken by Massachusetts, which could soon offer casinos. “I don’t think it will make it an issue one way or another,” he said, noting that people aren’t abandoning Saratoga Springs for Connecticut or New Jersey, both of which have casinos.

This point was reiterated by Shimkus, who felt a proposed Indian casino in the Catskills had represented a more serious threat.

“We knew that would have a negative impact on Saratoga,” he said.

In addition to a majority of residents supporting casinos, they also predicted a mix of positive and negative consequences. A large majority, 78 percent of those surveyed, believe thousands of jobs could be created by casinos in New York, but a slim majority, 51 percent of residents, also say there will be an increase of crime and compulsive gambling.

The Siena poll surveyed 597 state residents on Sept. 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Categories: Schenectady County

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