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Nassau Democratic leader calls for local checks on future casinos

Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) at a

Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) at a news conference in Mineola. (Feb. 22, 2011) (Credit: Barry Sloan)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has focused on casinos upstate to stimulate a long-static economy there. But the discussion of siting — and the Constitutional amendment allowing it — are a long way from done. Now joining the regional officials calling for a form of local control is Nassau legislative minority leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead).

Here's his statement:

“There is an effort now underway in Albany to amend the New York State constitution to allow for Atlantic City style commercial casinos to be built throughout the state. As of now, there is no specific language in the amendment legislation, or in discussion on the rules and regulations that will guide this effort if approved, to also require a local vote in the communities where casinos will be sited.

“Casinos have a significant social and economic impact in the communities where they’re sited. There can be negative and positive consequences but it is clear the fabric of a community — once a casino is placed nearby — changes. Omitting the voice of the people and institutions most affected by a casino compromises this process and is undemocratic.

“To amend our state constitution, amendment legislation must pass two consecutive legislative sessions and a statewide referendum. Both the legislation and the referendum question are summaries, thin on specifics, and posed in "yes or no" language. Legislation was passed in 2012, and is likely to be taken up again in the next few months. If passed this year, a referendum question is expected in a November 2013 statewide ballot.

“’Phase one’ of this expansion in casino development, we recently learned, would only involve three casinos, all north of The Bronx. However, the legislation passed in Albany last year calls for the development of up to seven casinos, as will the legislation considered this year and the expected referendum question. Nassau County may not see the impacts of this legislation immediately, but who knows what will happen 2, 5, or 10 years down the road? State and local government, as well as our economy, may look very different in the future than it does today. Three casinos now, leaves 4 casinos for later, and they could be developed anywhere.

“Not to include a provision for local approval of casinos would be irresponsible. The people of Nassau County — and all of Long Island and all of New York City, those areas not being considered for immediate casino development — should decide for themselves something this impactful and consequential. It’s a matter of basic fairness and sensible process.

“Whether it is a vote of the local legislative body or a local referendum or both, we need a plan for local approval of casinos as we move forward.”

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