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Casino 'local approval' group poll assesses vote drive*

The organization New Yorkers for Local Approval of Casinos released a poll commissioned from Joel Benenson that suggests a state constitutional amendment to legalize non-Indian reservation gambling casinos wouldn't succeed without a local-control provision.

*Revised in response to point raised below from whatdoiknow: Taken from this space a week ago:

New Yorkers for Local Approval of Casinos has been signing up businesses, elected officials, and individuals to support what it calls the necessity of local communities deciding for themselves whether to host casinos. The group began with backing from the Oneida Nation, which owns Turning Stone casino on tribal land outside Syracuse.

The full text released:

-- Our recent polling shows that while 54% of voters initially say they would vote yes on the constitutional amendment, the amendment as it stands has significant vulnerabilities.

-- In addition to the fact that most initiatives that start out with significant opposition fail, and those that are successful typically start with support above 60%, the amendment’s exclusion of a provision that allows for a local vote to approve casinos proves devastating to support levels.

--  Without local control, the amendment’s supporters are left with little path to victory. Even when their strongest argument is pitted directly against one for local approval, by an overwhelming margin voters agree that the Governor can’t ask any New Yorker to vote for this amendment without guaranteeing them the right to vote to prevent casinos in their own communities if they don’t want them.

-- 59% of likely voters agree that “Albany shouldn't expand gambling without communities being protected and given a vote in the process. Albany shouldn't dictate where to locate Atlantic City-style casinos that can harm communities. Before the Governor asks any New Yorker to vote yes on his amendment, every New Yorker should know where these seven casinos will be and be guaranteed that every community will have a local referendum to decide whether to have a casino built in their neighborhood.”

-- 33% agree with supporters who say this amendment “will boost tourism, create tens of thousands of jobs and provide a billion dollars in revenue to the state which will be invested in the surrounding community and schools across the state. A nonpartisan Gaming Commission will decide where casinos make the most sense, without local politics being injected into the process. We need to vote yes on this proposal so we stop losing out on the revenue and jobs going to other states.”

-- After hearing the messaging from both sides, without disclosing the location of proposed casinos or guaranteeing local referendums on them, 73% say they would vote no, and only 21% say they would vote yes.

--  Moreover, this opposition is intense across all major demographics:

--  77% of registered Republicans vote no, 76% of voters registered as Independent or other, and 70% of registered Democrats.

--  74% of whites, 67% of African Americans, and 74% of Hispanics (Hispanics are particularly angered by lack of local control, with their opposition up 45 points after hearing both sides)

-- 73% of upstate voters, 72% of New York City voters, and 76% of Long Island voters and those in suburban counties north of New York City

 —  Voters are more likely to say they would vote for the amendment if it included a local approval provision than if sites were selected by a nonpartisan commission.

-- 30% of voters say they would be more likely to vote for the amendment and 37% say they would be less likely to vote for it if the locations of the new casinos would be decided upon by a nonpartisan state Gaming Commission.

--  By contrast, 59% of voters would be more likely to vote for the amendment and just 18% say they would be less likely to vote for it if local communities had the right to approve a casino in their area through a vote.

The Benenson Strategy Group conducted 500 interviews in New York with registered voters who are likely to vote in the 2013 general election, plus an additional oversample of 100 interviews with African American and Hispanic likely voters. All interviews were conducted by telephone between February 12 and February 14, 2013, using a sample of registered voters. The total data set has a margin of error of ±4.0% at the 95% confidence level.

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