NYers Want State to Roll Dice on Casinos: Poll

Cuomo is considering the idea for non-Indian casinos as a revenue and job producer for the state

By Michael Gormley
|  Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011  |  Updated 7:44 AM EDT
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As Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders consider building casinos off Indian reservations on New York to boost the economy, a new poll says they should take the chance.

Cuomo first raised the idea as a revenue and job producer. He noted New Yorkers are already gambling at Indian casinos in New York and Connecticut and at other casinos in Atlantic City and elsewhere. Legislative leaders are now considering a constitutional amendment to allow non-Indian casinos in New York, a move that would require voter approval.

The Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows 56 percent of registered voters support creating casinos away from Indian reservations, which now have a monopoly on casinos in New York under federal law. The federal Indian Gaming Act supersedes a ban on casinos in the state constitution.

Sixty-four percent of voters said casinos would be good for the economy.

While Indian tribes provide some payments to the state from their casino revenues, far more could be collected in taxes that non-Indian operations would have to pay.

"Roll the dice, spin the wheel, hit me," said Quinnpiac's Maurice "Mickey" Carroll. "Casinos would be good for the economy, voters think, but they also think there'd be an increase in gambling addiction."

That has been the concern of powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, who has opposed some previous efforts to increase gambling in New York.

"The speaker has consistently indicated that while he is generally opposed to casino gambling, a constitutional amendment to allow for it in certain existing resort areas could be something worth examining," said Silver spokesman Michael Whyland.

Whyland cautioned, however, that the issue hasn't yet been discussed with rank-and-file members of the Assembly's Democratic majority. The Assembly majority has sought additional revenues to pay for restorations and increases in funding for schools, public colleges and health care.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, isn't supporting or blocking casinos at this time, but supports a constitutional amendment that would require a public vote.

"He has talked about the potential for economic growth and jobs, but in the end it should be up to the people," said Skelos' spokesman, Scott Reif.

"It is a complex matter," Cuomo said. "It has numerous ramifications on a number of levels ... at this point I'm not encouraging, I'm not dissuading" the Legislature.

"At one time the question was gaming or no gaming," Cuomo said. "That's not the question anymore. There will be gaming ... so the question has shifted."

Cuomo said he hopes to have "a position by January, when the new session starts, as part of a new agenda for the new year."

Quinnipiac questioned 1,016 registered voters Sept. 13-18. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 points.

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