Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and rival Thomas Suozzi took a break from criticizing each others' records Tuesday, as they held a rare joint appearance to support a statewide ballot referendum that would allow the construction of up to seven upstate casinos.
Local business and labor leaders joined Mangano and Suozzi at a news conference in Mineola to urge voters to back a proposed constitutional amendment that they said would generate nearly $29 million annually for Long Island school districts. Mangano, the Republican incumbent, and Suozzi, a Democrat who served as county executive from 2002-2009, are facing each other in the Nov. 5 election.
"Upstate gaming will have a downstate net positive result," said Mangano. "A 'yes' vote will help education and help hold the line on taxes."
Suozzi, who was narrowly defeated by Mangano in 2009, said the casinos would "help school districts address the serious issues of property taxes. It's good for the state and it will be good for Long Island."
Additional casinos are projected to generate $28.8 million for Long Island schools -- $19.1 million for Suffolk and $9.7 million for Nassau. Funds will be distributed based on a statewide school aid formula, officials said.
Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, said New York loses $1 billion per year in potential revenue to neighboring states with legalized casino gambling.
"We need to keep these dollars here," Law said.
The proposed casinos also would create 15,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent positions statewide, said John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor.
Opponents of the plan, however, argue that casinos would lead to increases in crime and compulsive gambling.
Nassau and Suffolk also are expected to receive $17.2 million each in revenue from 1,000 video lottery terminals that are planned for each county. One VLT parlor will be built in each county regardless of the results of the ballot referendum.