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Millions spent in support of gambling referendum

Seneca Niagara Casino, Niagara Falls, NY
WBFO News file photo
Seneca Niagara Casino, Niagara Falls, NY

Updating a 2005 report called "Stacking the Deck," Common Cause New York says gambling interests have raised more than $3 million in less than three years, passing the cash along to elected officials and a series of pro-gambling groups.

Common Cause is also attacking the wording on the November ballot on a constitutional amendment  "Authorizing Casino Gaming".The referendum would allow casinos outside of areas, which already have Indian casinos, such as those operated by the Seneca Nation of Indians in Western New York.

The ballot language uses phrases like "promoting job growth," "increasing aid to schools" and "lowering property taxes."

Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner said her group sees the cash going to politicians as a way for them to support casinos.

"We think it's trying to create an atmosphere where public policy is determined based on whether it will allow our elected officials to continue to garner large amounts of gambling interest money," Lerner said.

Lerner said Common Cause is backing a challenge to the ballot wording and may file a supporting brief in the court case to show its position.

Learner points out poll results shifted to support of casinos once the new words appeared talking about economic value and jobs from casinos not neutral legal wording.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.