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Cuomo touts casino amendment win


Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not lose any time in publicizing a win on a gambling expansion amendment in Tuesday’s voting. The governor made two public appearances in regions that are now authorized to build resort style casinos.

In what amounted to a post election victory lap, Cuomo celebrated the passage of the casino gambling amendment in the Catskills with a crowd of business, labor and local government officials. He called it a huge win.

“This is a game changer,” Cuomo said. “It means jobs. It means business. It means getting the economy running.”

The amendment had been marketed by supporters as a vehicle for job creation, school aid increases, and tax reductions. Even the ballot language itself emphasized the potential jobs and tax cuts, and did not even use the word gambling.

Steve Greenberg, with Siena College, says polls showed the disciplined message, as well as the wording of the ballot amendment, helped.

He says voters were evenly divided when read neutral language about the casino expansion. When they were read the enhanced wording actually on the ballot, making the link to potential jobs and school aid, support jumped.

“That absolutely moves a significant number of voters from opposition to support,” said Greenberg.

Cuomo also stopped in Binghamton, another economically troubled region of the state that could soon see a new casino.

In contrast to the casino amendment, the governor stayed out of the campaign to let some state judges remain on the bench until the age of 80. Though he did say there were some questions about perceived flaws in the amendment.

The ballot item failed by a nearly two-to-one margin. Some judges, including ones on the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, will not be allowed to stay on the bench until age 80, as some of them had hoped. They will instead have to retire at age 70. Because of the forced retirements, Cuomo, should he win reelection in 2014, will get to appoint every one of the seven judges on the court. Those who aren’t near retirement age are nearing the end of their 14 year terms.  

Court expert and Albany Law School professor Vince Bonventre says it’s a unique opportunity for Cuomo, but perhaps sets a bad precedent.

“This would be an entirely Andrew Cuomo court,” Bonventre said.

Republicans in New York are countering the idea that Cuomo won big on election night. They point to wins by GOP county executives in Westchester County and Nassau County on Long Island, as well as gaining the majority on the Erie County legislature, and the Binghamton mayor’s post.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.