Wagering in New York State: a history

Bingo players at the Empire Hose Co. fire

Bingo players at the Empire Hose Co. fire hall in Merrick (Dec. 14, 1964). Photo Credit: Newsday/Richard Morseman

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1821, 1846, 1894

Three successive versions of the state constitution ban lotteries for money prizes, with wording of the prohibition getting stronger each time.


At a constitutional convention, the first big exception to gambling ban allows pari-mutuel wagering on horses. In 1939, New York voters OK an amendment to allow horse racing by 1,225,495 to 594,811.


A constitutional change to permit bingo games by certain organizations is approved by voters, 1,818,353 to 1,175,820.


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An amendment to allow a state lottery for education passes, 2,464,898 to 1,604,694. In 1970, the legislature uses this change to justify creation of off-track betting.


Amendment to permit games of chance by religious and nonprofit organizations passes, 1,497,217 to 1,491,943. In 1976, the legislature uses this change to allow "Las Vegas nights."


Oneida Indian Nation opens Turning Stone Casino near Syracuse. It's the state's first casino.

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A push to legalize casino gambling loses when the required second passage of a constitutional amendment fails in the State Legislature.


Amid fears for the economy after 9/11, the legislature allows video slot machines at "racinos," expanded Indian gambling and participation in the Mega Millions lottery.


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Legislature OKs New York's participation in multistate Powerball lottery.


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