Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday that the passage of a constitutional amendment to allow seven new casinos was a "great win" for New York as he toured the state to tout perhaps the biggest economic development initiative of his tenure.
Cuomo scored a major political win after voters approved the constitutional amendment 57 percent to 43 percent on Election Day. He also won when voters rejected a proposed amendment that would have raised the retirement age for judges on New York's top court from 70 to 80. If he wins a second term next year, Cuomo will be able to appoint all seven members to the state Court of Appeals by the end of 2018.
But Republicans also crowed after winning big in local elections. The GOP won county executive races in the counties surrounding New York City (Nassau, Westchester and Rockland) -- even though Cuomo endorsed Democrats in each one of those contests. The GOP also flipped control of the Erie County Legislature (Buffalo) from Democrat to Republican.
"They have sent a very powerful message about the future of the Republican Party in New York State, particularly in the New York City suburbs and across upstate," said Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the top elected Republican in the state.
Lawrence Levy, executive dean for the Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said the victories show that "even in a Democratic state, Republicans still have a viable brand."
Cuomo made stops in Bethel, site of the 1969 Woodstock concert, and Binghamton in a victory lap of sorts. The gambling proposal allows for construction of up to seven non-American Indian run casinos; the first phase of development will be limited to four upstate casinos over about seven years.
New York already has five American Indian-run casinos and nine "racinos" -- horse racing tracks that feature video slot machines. Cuomo, a Democrat, made last-minute automated phone calls to households around the state to promote the casino amendment.
The governor said on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public radio program, that "at micro level," the election "mean jobs for upstate New York. It's a magnet to bringing downstate traffic to upstate."
Cuomo said the lack of casino development was a "metaphor for [government] dysfunction in New York," while other Northeast states rapidly expanded gambling venues.
"We just sat here and let other states eat our lunch, so to speak," Cuomo said. "We got passed by."
Some critics say the casino market is saturated and note bailouts and bankruptcies at troubled venues in Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware.
Cuomo said: "If prospective developers come in, they put in their money and build casinos. If [critics] are right, nobody will come in. I don't believe [they are] right because the private sector has said otherwise."