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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Proposal One: Casino gaming"

ALBANY, Oct. 28 -- It’s been tough for a lot of pundits to resist the most obvious turns of phrase that come to mind concerning “Proposal One” on this year’s statewide ballot – that the stakes are high, that voters should go all-in, or that it’s about time that New York State got in on this game. And all the rest.

But it’s much more serious than any play on words can express – there are legitimate, strongly opposed points of view on this proposed constitutional amendment -- and so I hope voters locally and statewide will give Proposal One the careful and serious consideration it deserves in advance of Election Day, Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

And then vote "Yes."

Make no mistake that legalizing casino gambling in New York State has been controversial from the get-go, even right up until recently when the courts made a final ruling on the proposal’s very wording so that when voters head to the voting booth on November 5th, here’s what they’ll find:


"The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?"

Supporters of Proposal One highlight its potential to help numerous Upstate New York communities compete with neighboring states for the significant local revenues generated – and the local jobs created – by the construction and operation of local, non-Indian gaming resorts. Consider the following from New York Jobs Now (, a coalition of business leaders, labor unions, economic development professionals, educators and citizens formed to support the enactment of Proposal One. According to the coalition, approval will:

-- create more than 10,000 new, permanent jobs throughout New York State, especially Upstate;

-- spark $1.6 billion in construction spending in local communities;

-- produce over $200 million in new funding for local schools;

-- bolster the local tourism industry; and

-- provide significant state and local tax relief.

More specifically, the state Division of the Budget (DOB) has estimated that the approval of Proposal One will, for Upstate, produce an estimated $430 million annually for additional school aid, property tax relief and local government assistance.

Tioga Downs owner Jeff Gural, who also owns Vernon Downs in the Finger Lakes, recently said of Proposal One, ““I think that this is a win-win for the state of New York.” Proposal One’s approval by the voters would give Tioga Downs the opportunity to compete for a casino license in Upstate New York. Plans are already in the works for a $70 million investment that would create 300 construction jobs and 200 more permanent jobs.

The head of the Business Council of New York State recently said in support of Proposal One, “New Yorkers spend more than 1.2 billion dollars a year at destination casinos in other states. It’s about time we bring that kind of money home to create jobs, support schools, and take property tax pressure off towns and cities.”

The truth is that New York is surrounded by states which have already legalized casino gaming: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut. To say nothing of the across-the-border gaming attractions in Canada. It’s estimated that New Yorkers spend $1.2 billion in these other states and countries on the gaming and entertainment not offered in New York -- which equals lost jobs and lost revenue to New York.

According to New York Jobs Now, “Every single dollar of revenue generated by the new casinos will go to education aid, property tax relief, or local government aid. By law, 80 percent of the state tax revenue from these casinos will be used to fund public education or property tax relief in all parts of New York. These new funds will be added to and not replace existing state aid, including lottery funding for schools. All of the remaining state tax revenue from these casinos will go directly to the areas in and around the new casinos. Half will be split between the host municipalities and the host counties, and half will go to surrounding counties in the area.”

There are always two sides to every story, differing opinions on every issue. That’s certainly the case here. Nor should anyone think that the enactment of Proposal One represents the panacea for the Upstate New York economy. There are other -- many other -- more important actions that we could, should and hopefully will take to strengthen Upstate.

But Proposal One could help, in my view, and it’s hard to ignore the potential for new jobs, new local investment, new local revenue, new local tax relief and, at the same time, new aid for meaningful local programs and services.

Vote Yes.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869