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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Silence Could be Golden for Casino Supporters

We haven't heard any campaigning at all from either side on the casino referendum, as reported last week by Casey Seiler on the Capitol Confidential blog, and, more expansively, by Tom Precious in the Buffalo News on Monday.  Not surprising it's been quiet to this point considering the summer months and the attention on the recent primaries.  But Precious reports that some casino advocates feel that a planned $20 million expenditure may not even be necessary.

Some of the nation’s top casino companies and real estate developers looking to build gambling halls in New York State have a growing sense that they might have to open their wallets only slightly to win the referendum.

“There seems to be an inevitability about the passage of it. We’re just not seeing any opposition,” said Michael R. Treanor, an investor in a proposed casino and hotel project at a shuttered Catskills resort. [Buffalo News]
 No, we're not seeing any opposition, are we?
 "I'm surprised so far by the lack of organized opposition," said David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values. "There seems to be a kind of passivity, and I'm not sure where it's coming from." [Capitol Confidential]
 Well, I think it's clear where it's coming from.  For one thing, opponents don't have the money to compete with big gambling interests, and politics always comes down to money, doesn't it?
 Opponents of expanded gambling say they plan to rely on a grass-roots – and inexpensive – effort using social media, church bulletins, email chains and the news media to promote their side of the issue.

“We took a small ad out in the Pennysaver in Sullivan County for $600. That’s about it,” said Stephen W. Shafer, chairman of the Buffalo-based Coalition Against Casino Gambling in New York. [Buffalo News]
  Yeah, don't know if a campaign in local Pennysavers is quite going to do the job.  Whats more, as Precious points out:
 Opponents face more than just at a money disadvantage. They say the battle is unfair because the gambling companies have the full support of state government.  
Indeed, the governor has taken several steps to promote the passage of the measure.  He dulled the urgency of the measure when he announced his plan to expand VLT's beyond the racetracks even should the measure fail.  He negotiated agreements with three Indian tribes, granting them territorial exclusivity, thus taking those deep-pocketed potential opponents completely out of the game.  Similarly, I've speculated here in the past that Cuomo made a back room deal with the New York Gaming Association to gain its support.  I believe that will become clear when, should the referendum pass, casinos are awarded to NYGA members Saratoga Harness and Tioga Downs, as well as to Empire Resorts, in which Genting has a piece.  (NYGA supports the measure but will not actively campaign for its passage.)  Tioga Down is owned of course by Jeff Gural.  He's received widespread praise, including here, for his efforts to revitalize the harness game at the Meadowlands and to clean up the game with his aggressive anti-drug measures.  However, he's surely not supporting the amendment because he thinks it will be good for harness (or any other kind of horse) racing, which it surely will not.  Here we see where his true interests lie; in his bank account.

And, perhaps most significantly, as discussed here in my post the other day, and as succinctly articulated by Casey Seiler in his Capital Confidential piece:
 Perhaps the most significant piece of advocacy for passage can be found on the November ballot itself.
 In case you missed it, the ballot question reads as follows:
"The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?"
You know those signs as you approach the polling place that warn that electioneering is not permitted beyond this point?  If I stood beyond that point and handed out leaflets with that exact language, even without advising which way to vote (which hardly even seems necessary), you can be sure I would be promptly led away by one of the bored cops assigned there.  Yet, Governor Cuomo has succeeded in having that persuasively one-sided language on the ballot itself!

The arrogance of inserting this language is exceeded only by its sheer sinister brilliance.  If I were a casino advocate, I would think really hard about doing any campaigning whatsoever.  Why do anything to bring any attention to the matter at all?  Why stir up debate on an issue on which passionate opponents could surely make a compelling case against the government balancing the budget in such a regressive and repulsive manner, when the ballot practically directs voters on which way to vote?  Supporters were concerned that the vote would be decided by NYC voters who don't have a clear interest in the issue (since casinos will supposedly be barred from the area for seven years).  But it instead could be to their clear advantage to have it decided by NYC voters who are focused on the mayoral and other local races, and who simply haven't thought twice about casinos before going to vote.  This referendum may already have been decided in some office in the Executive Mansion in Albany, Governor Cuomo's idea of the democratic process at work.

 - Two day carryover at Belmont as racing resumes today; some longshots contributing to the cause over the weekend.  Two of them were courtesy of trainer John Kimmel on Sunday; he scored in the 5th with Tracey's Belle, who was 10-1 and just as easily could have been 100-1 coming off her debut, a distant 9th at 48-1 at Finger Lakes.  And his 10th race winner Run to Mama ($47.60) was no less incongruous, mounting an unlikely wide rally to win despite having shown virtually nothing in four prior efforts.  Hard to make any kind of red-board case for either of those for this streak-prone barn.

The good karma for trainer Leah Gyarmati generated by her Grade 1 win in the Spinaway at Saratoga has carried over with a solid 7-2-2-1 start at Belmont.  On Saturday, her first-time starter Noble Moon wired the 5th race at 25-1, hanging on over Pletcher's 4-5 favorite Divine Energy.  Here's another winning son of Malibu Moon, this one out of a Kingmambo mare who's a half to some handy stakes winners in Silver Moon, Prospector's Song, and Musical Ghost.  In the following race, Gossip Column ($101) was the first of two triple digit winners on the weekend, for trainer Joe Orseno, and completed a $1,447 daily double.  This horse hadn't seen the winner's circle in his last 12 starts and apparently appreciated the shorten-up in distance.

Biggest bombshell of the weekend was when Concealed got the bob at 62 to 1 in the 8th on Sunday for trainer Luis Miranda, his second winner, from seven starters, at the meeting.  First-time on the grass for this three-year old daughter of Officer out of a Cat Thief mare who's a half to the NY-bred stakes winner (on dirt) Bigger is Bettor, thus contributing to the bigger is better Pick Six pool today.  Best of luck and have a great day.

1 Comment:

jk said...

From Alan's blog to Mike Long's ears.....

The State’s Conservative Party issued a statement urging New York voters to reject a constitutional amendment slated for the November ballot that would allow up to seven casinos around the Empire State.

The party, led by Mike Long of Brooklyn, said it doesn’t believe casinos will lead to real, sustainable economic development. Its analysis also takes issue with the rosy verbiage that will appear on the actual ballot.