Religious, anti-gambling groups push back on casino amendment

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Saying that opening the state’s doors to full-fledged casinos would cause more harm than good, a coalition of religious and anti-gambling advocates were in Albany today to urge lawmakers to oppose a proposed constitutional amendment to allow seven casinos.

A quick refresher: As part of a legislative mega-deal in March, the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo began the process of amending the state Constitution to allow for up to 7 casinos statewide. In order to change the state constitution, however, a bill must be passed by consecutively seated Legislatures and approved by a vote of the public.

The anti-gambling group — the Coalition Against Gambling in New York — will meet with lawmakers Monday and Tuesday to present a series of position papers on the issue, according to Joel Rose, the group’s chairman.

The timing of the group’s Albany rollout is a bit strange, considering the current Legislature has already passed the amendment and a new one will be seated for 2013. But Rose said the group organized as quickly as it could, and that a majority of incumbent lawmakers will be returning next year, in all likelihood.

“We feel that it’s not too soon to begin laying the groundwork for a fight next year,” Rose said. “Most of the legislators who are here now will be back then, and we’ll be talking to people who are candidates, also. This is not going to be the end of our efforts; this is really the beginning of our efforts on this amendment.”

Rose said passing the amendment and allowing seven casinos (aside from the pre-existing American Indian casinos and non-table-game venues at horseracing tracks) would be a slippery slope.

“Even if this amendment passes and we have seven additional casinos, I don’t know why anybody would think it will stop there,” Rose said. “There’s all that untapped revenue from Internet gambling, so you can have casino gambling in your home 24/7 and lose your house while you’re still in it.”

Here’s video of Interfaith Impact of NYS executive director Robb Smith discussing his group’s opposition to the gambling amendment:

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