NY casino foes smash slot machine in protest

NY casino foes smash slot machine as a pickpocket of poor; pro-casino group touts tax revenue

Associated Press
NY casino foes smash slot machine in protest
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Bill Sisk of the Rockefeller Institute of Government smashes a slot machine with a sledge hammer during an anti-casino event outside the state Capitol on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. Opponents of a Nov. 5 referendum to expand casinos in New York say it will increase problem gambling while not fulfilling the promises of jobs, tax breaks and school aid. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A lobbying group supporting more New York casinos held its latest in a series of statewide press conferences with local officials on Tuesday while an anti-casino group resorted to violence — against a slot machine.

Members of the nonprofit think tank Institute for American Values, the Coalition Against Gambling in New York and other anti-gambling activists took turns with a sledgehammer whacking a slot machine in front of the state Capitol. They oppose a Nov. 5 voter referendum that would authorize Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan for seven Las Vegas-style casinos, the first four of which would be located upstate.

"This is not a stunt. This is an effort to try to get our argument out," said David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values. "There has not been a single public hearing. Governor Cuomo has not given a single significant speech ... so there has been a misleading and a confusing set of arguments coming from the pro-casino side."

Blankenhorn said most casinos draw from their local communities, hurting their economies by withdrawing cash while contributing to social ills, and he said the state is minimizing the social costs of addiction and crime. Tuesday's event mimicked the 1934 smashing of slot machines by then-New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who called the machines "mechanical pickpockets."

On Long Island on Tuesday, the lobbying group NY Jobs Now said expansion would capture much of the $1.2 billion a year New York residents spend on casinos in other states and in Canada.

The local officials said that even though no casinos were planned for Long Island or New York City, more than $63 million in tax revenue from upstate casinos would flow to Long Island.

"Proposal 1 is an opportunity for New York to create thousands of good, long-term jobs and support the education system throughout our state, including Long Island," said John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor. "We don't always agree, but when it comes to creating jobs and supporting our schools, we can speak with one voice."

Cuomo's office had no comment on Tuesday and referred comment to the NY Jobs group.

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