ALBANY, N.Y. — Voters on Tuesday approved a plan to allow up to seven private casinos in New York.
With 60 percent of polling stations reporting, 57 percent of voters backed the proposed amendment, which would alter the state constitution to allow up to seven non-Indian casinos across the state. The Associated Press declared the measure had passed.
Under a plan passed by the state Legislature, the first four casinos will be slated for three parts of the state — the Catskills, Southern Tier and Capital Region. The areas will have gambling exclusivity for seven years.
"The passage of Proposal One is a big win for local governments, school districts, and taxpayers across New York state," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. "This vote will keep hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year in neighboring states right here in New York, while increasing revenue for local schools, lowering property tax taxes, and bringing proper regulation to the industry."
The next step would be for the state Gaming Commission to set up a siting committee to review proposals for the four casinos. Already there are at least three proposals for the Catskills, and the two racinos in Saratoga and Tioga Downs wants to build casinos.
Already casino companies said they plan to bid on building a resort.
"We look forward to seeking a license to bring the same type of full service destination resort casino to the Catskills that we've created in Connecticut," Foxwoods Resort and Casino president Scott Butera said in a statement.
Speaking to reporters after voting Tuesday in Mount Kisco, Cuomo reiterated his argument that the state already has forms of legalized casino gambling and is losing out to nearby states who have full-fledged casinos. New York has nine racetracks with video-lottery terminals and five Native American casinos.
Casino proponents benefited from out-of-state money this week, according to state Board of Elections records.
The national Teamsters union, Las Vegas-based Bally Gaming and EPR Properties, a Kansas City-based real estate trust, donated a total of $100,000 to New York Jobs Now, a coalition of labor and business groups pushing the casino amendment.
The donations came as an automated call featuring Cuomo touting his support for the proposal hit all corners of the state Monday. Cuomo first pushed the casino amendment as part of his 2012 State of the State address, and negotiated agreements with the state's Native American tribes that were key to its passage.
Opponents of casinos, which include conservative think tanks and Catskill Mountainkeeper, have questioned their economic impact. Casinos, they say, amount to a regressive tax on the less-fortunate and gambling addicts. They questioned the rosy language on the ballot, which touted casinos as a way to boost economic development and provide tax revenue to local governments.
"We had hoped that the vote on whether to have casinos in New York State would have been fair — but everything about the process seemed rigged," the group, Committee Against Proposition 1, said in a statement. "Nevertheless, we accept that the people of New York have spoken; our focus will now be on how to mitigate the impact of casinos in the Catskills."