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Politics and Government

Pro-casino coalition airs first ads

via Flickr

The first ad is out promoting the ballot amendment to build new casinos in New York. It focuses on the benefits casinos might bring and not on actual gambling activity.

The ads, from a statewide coalition of business and labor groups, are currently aimed at downstate voters, where the New York City mayor’s race and county executive contest in Nassau County is expected to draw the greatest turn out on November 5.

A narrator points out that the Democratic and Republican mayoral candidates, Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota, both back the amendment. A similar ad to air on Long Island features Nassau County Executive candidates Tom Suozzi and Ed Mangano, who also are both pro-gambling expansion.

“They’ll be checking the same box,” a female narrator says.  

The ad goes on to portray workers constructing a building, chefs cooking at a restaurant and teachers and students interacting in a classroom. The narrator links the new casinos to job creation and more money for schools.

There are no pictures in the ad of actual casinos or of people gambling.

Stephen Shafer, with the Coalition Against Gambling, says the ads are disingenuous.

“It’s an effort to just hide from people that this is about gambling,” said Shafer. “What the ads do not show are the horrible social costs that New York state residents will incur if this amendment is passed.”

Shafer, a retired physician, believes problem gambling will increase if the amendment is passed. But he says his side has no money for ads.

The business and labor coalition says it has $2 million to spend on promotions, and the state’s Business Council President, Heather Briccetti, says more is planned, including direct mail.

A spokesman for the coalition won’t say whether TV ads are planned for upstate, saying they prefer not to outline their exact promotional strategy in advance.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who successfully convinced the legislature to approve the gambling amendment, is not appearing in the ads and has not made a special public effort to promote the ballot measure. But when asked, he readily gives his reasons to back it. He says New York already has gambling with the slot like machines connected to the state’s lottery system at race tracks. He also says gambling is easily available at Indian-run casinos in New York and in neighboring states.

“It’s not really should we go there or not. We’re there,” said Cuomo. “The question is should we regulate them better and maximize the resources.”

The proposal is the No. 1 amendment on the ballot.