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Casino-Related Election Day Results in New York and Massachusetts

Published on October 25, 2014, 4:32 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

November 5th, US Election DayNovember 5th was a general election day across the United States. Several casino-related proposals were voted on in New York and Massachusetts. New York's results were pro-gambling while Massachusetts' outcomes seemed to be more anti-casino. Here are the highlights from November's casino-related general elections:

New Yorkers Approve Referendum #1

New York's Referendum #1 proposed the addition of seven casinos over the next seven years. Four casinos would be constructed right away. The proposal received a lot of negative attention from opponents who felt its persuasive wording unfairly swayed voters toward a yes vote. In the end, however, a judge ruled that the wording was acceptable as written.

One of the referendum's major selling points was that most of the revenue from the new betting facilities would be directly applied to the funding of public education (click here for more info). In a hurting U.S. economy with a competitive educational system, this would generally be perceived as a benefit and a compelling reason to approve the referendum. Members of the United Federation of Teachers union, however, expressed doubts over the viability of the proposal as a realistic vehicle for funding schools.

Referendum #1 was passed on Election Day by a close margin. New Yorkers are now anticipating a battle between casino operators over who will obtain the seven available licenses and win the privilege of selecting the new casino locations. Possible addresses include the Albany-Saratoga Springs vicinity, the Catskills, and the Mid-Hudson Valley area. In seven years, at least one new casino is also expected to be built in New York City.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who championed the proposal, plans to use the referendum's victory as positive propaganda toward his re-election in 2014. Besides being a boon to school funding, one of Cuomo's major talking points on the issue is that New York has been losing gambling revenue to surrounding states for years due to unbalanced competition in the region. Thanks to the passage of the referendum, the state will now have the chance to reclaim some of the dollars that have been traveling in New Yorkers' pockets to other states' casinos.

East Boston Rejects New Suffolk Downs Casino

In Boston, a $1 billion Suffolk Downs casino was rejected by a close margin of 56-43 percent. Suffolk Downs is a nearly 80-year-old thoroughbred racetrack in Massachusetts that has been losing money for years. Advocates for the racetrack saw the addition of the new casino as a chance to breathe life back into the financially failing horse racing facility.

The referendum had its fair share of opponents. Repeal the Deal campaign chairman John Ribeiro remarked that the public felt there were simply "better economic options" than increasing gambling options in the community. Other perceived drawbacks of the Suffolk Downs facility included increased pollution, crime, traffic, and problems with gambling addiction.

Those who supported the referendum had wanted to see the new project succeed because it would stimulate the local economy, create jobs, and help save the existing Suffolk Downs. Hope is not completely lost for supporters as new plans for a possible Suffolk Downs in the town of Revere are already in the works. Revere might be a good place for the project, according to supporters, because the voters who responded most favorably to the proposal live in that town. As such, they would be more likely to approve the construction of a new facility in a future vote.

In a state where the gambling industry is just beginning to blossom, this election result delivered a major blow to industry supporters. Thanks to the support of Revere voters, however, hope still exists for Suffolk Downs advocates, albeit in a different location.

Controversy about the Suffolk Downs Casino referendum
Controversy about the Suffolk Downs Casino referendum

Mohegan Sun Billion Dollar Resort Project Rejected

There are many Native American tribes related to gambling in US (read this post to know about Shakopee Mdewakanton tribe in Minnesota and this one for more tribes). The Mohegan Native American tribe wanted to build a billion dollar casino resort in the Massachusetts town of Palmer that would have included an indoor water park, two hotels, fine restaurants, and numerous retail stores. The new facility would have created 3,100 permanent jobs and thousands of incidental jobs, thereby stimulating the local economy in a number of ways, according to tribe officials. The proposal for the new construction was struck down, however, by a narrow margin of only 93 votes.

The vote was so close that members of the tribe have requested a recount by hand. Technical difficulty with one of the ballot machines has been cited as a real and compelling concern. Although tribal officials have expressed their worry that the votes were miscounted, it is not yet clear whether the request for a recount will be granted.

Supporters of the Mohegan Sun project saw it as a chance for economic revitalization in a town with a struggling economy. One disappointed voter said that the proposal's defeat is why Palmer will always be a "redneck" town. Opponents felt that a new casino would be more of a hindrance than a help to citizens, contributing negatively to the area's crime and addiction rates.

The proposed resort would not have been America's first Mohegan Sun. The Mohegan Sun of Connecticut is one of the largest gambling facilities in the U.S. Located in the town of Uncasville, the giant casino is made up of three smaller ones: the Casino of the Earth, the Casino of the Sky, and the Casino of the Sun.

Mohegan Sun casino resort project in Palmer
Mohegan Sun casino resort project in Palmer

A Mohegan Sun also exists at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania. Like the Resorts World Casino in NYC, this facility is a racino featuring both a live horse racing track and a luxury casino.

American Democracy Continues to Debate Gambling Pros and Cons

The debate between the pros and cons of brick-and-mortar casinos continues to rage within American democracy. This November's general election brought to light only a few of the country's numerous gambling issues. The United States will continue to wrestle with its conscience over which scenario is better for the country: A landscape with a large number of gambling opportunities or a landscape with a limited number of gambling opportunities.

Other major issues which were voted upon in November's election included the legalization of marijuana, school funding, and gay rights.


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