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NY Referendum Rolls Dice On Expansion Of Casinos

By MICHAEL GORMLEY

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) a¿¿ Voters are holding the cards as to whether New York will authorize seven Las Vegas-style casinos following months of debate over the benefits of expanded gambling and the rewording of Tuesday's ballot question.

One casino would be in the Southern Tier near Binghamton, two in the Catskills and Mid-Hudson Valley region, and another in the Saratoga Springs-Albany area. A New York City casino would be built in seven years, although some casino operators say the law could allow for a New York City casino sooner.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn't allow specific sites to be chosen, saying that will be up to the casino developers. His budget office says the state will take in $430 million in new casino revenue, with $238 million for education in a repeat of the strategy that approved lottery games. The rest would go to communities near casinos to compensate for public safety and social costs and for tax reduction.

Boosters held news conferences statewide touting bipartisan support by local government officials.

"When you're at 18 percent unemployment, you've lost your industry, the housing market has really taken a hit around here, the potential of 1,500 jobs a¿¿ it can be a game changer," Town of Wawarsing Supervisor Scott Carlsen told The Associated Press in an interview.

The latest Siena College-New York Times poll appears to show the efforts have paid off. After New Yorkers have spent years split over the notion of expanding casino gambling, the poll released a week ago found 60 percent of New York City voters a¿¿ who are expected to dominate Tuesday's turnout a¿¿ support the question. However, in that poll they were still split over whether voters wanted a casino in New York City, which would be authorized in Tuesday's referendum.

Critics including good-government groups, the state Conservative Party and the state's Catholic bishops argue that Cuomo's estimates of benefits are inflated and that the social cost to families and communities will be profound. They also criticized what they called the referendum's unusually rosy, one-side view of casinos.

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