Republican And Democratic Leaders Hail Racino Agreement

The Hotel Trades Council has reached an accord with Resorts World New York in an agreement the labor group says will set the standard for gaming employees statewide.

The agreement, first reported in The New York Times, also includes an eventual $60,000-a-year salary for the majority of workers by 2016.

Hourly wages for workers in the fast-food industry will be set at $32.94 by 2016 as well.

In the immediate term, the agreement will raise wages from an average of $10.15 an hour to $19.91 an hour, with the average wage hitting $28.54 an hour in the next three years.

The new contract impacts roughly 1,400 racino workers.

But the agreement could have a wide-ranging impact for gaming employees as voters next week consider an amendment that would expand non-Indian casinos in the state.

As part of the enabling legislation approved the state Legislature earlier this year, the Hotel Trades Council previously signed five labor peace agreements with the operators who are considering applying for upstate casino licenses.

“This landmark contract will provide a pathway from poverty to the middle class for thousands of New Yorkers. With this contract, we have created a blueprint that will set a standard for future contracts with the gaming industry throughout the state,” said Peter Ward, President of the Hotel Trades Council. “This is a win-win for employees and for the future of New York’s middle class.”

The move was hailed by Democratic and Republican leaders in the Assembly and Senate in a statement released by the HTC that was chock full of happy quotes.

“This is an outstanding agreement for the people of New York City and these workers. Growing and strengthening our middle class is vitally important, and I hope that these same types of agreements can be reached at facilities in other areas of the state after voters approve the casino gambling amendment in November,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“This contract agreement will mean better-paying jobs for local workers, created by a well-run, profitable, private sector business. It’s the kind of economic development that New York needs,” Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said.

“This is a great day for workers statewide and I applaud the Hotel Trades Council and Resorts World for negotiating a deal that both creates and retains good paying jobs here in New York,” said IDC Leader Jeff Klein. Under this agreement, Resorts World employees will be treated with the respect they deserve, by providing them with fair pay and good benefits in exchange for an honest, hard day’s work.”

Pro-Casino Group Raises $2M

The pro-casino ballot referendum committee New York Jobs Now has raised $2 million to fund an effort boosting next month’s constitutional amendment to expand gambling in New York.

The group reported in its campaign-finance filing late Friday that it had spent $360,843 and has $1.7 million in the bank.

New York Jobs Now is receiving most of its money from companies operating racinos in the state, including Empire Resorts, Yonkers Racing Corporation and Saratoga Harness Racing.

The coalition, which is being coordinated by the state Business Council, has spent $125,000 on “digital advertising” with the Global Strategy Group and $45,000 in consulting fees with Metropolitan Public Strategies, the company founded by former chief of staff to Attorney Generla Eric Schneiderman Neal Kwatra.

An advertising campaign airing in the New York City area began this week, but does not appear to have began in time to be reflected in the campaign-finance report.

Ballot referendum committees can raise unlimited amounts of cash.

Casino Money by Nick Reisman

Orthodox Newspapers Line Up Against Gambling

From the Capital Tonight morning memo, the second item:

Shortly after The New York Times posted its editorial urging a “no” vote on the amendment to expand casino gambling in New York, Cuomo aide Howard Glaser took to Twitter to push back.

“Attn NYT: Md casinos recruit for jobs paying 44-55K…apparently NYT editors think those jobs beneath them so no one else should have,” wrote Glaser, who is Cuomo’s point man for the casino amendment.

“Attn NYT: “Isolated” Southern Tier of NYS is home to Cornell, Binghamton U, Fortune 500 company Corning, and hundreds of thousands NYer,” he wrote in another tweet.

But it’s not just the Times editorial board that has knocked the proposal.

Jewish community weeklikes Der Yid and Der Blatt, along with Di Tzeitung, have written articles critical of the casino amendment.

One of the regions slated for casino development includes the Catskills, which has a growing Orthodox community that has voted as a bloc on major issues.

Pro-Casino Contributions Trickle In

The pro-casino New York Jobs Now ballot referendum committee has raised $725,000, according to notices filed on the state Board of Elections website.

The committee received contributions from a variety of pro-casinos interests including American Racing & Entertainment, which operates Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, and Nevele Investors, which hopes to build a casino in the Catskills region.

American Racing contributed $125,000, while Nevele contributed $50,000.

Yonkers Racing Corp., an area that would not be eligible for a casino in the first phase of construction, contributed $250,000.

And interestingly enough, the Oneida Indian Nation, which operates Turning Stone Resort and Casino, contributed $50,000.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo negotiated a series of exclusivity and revenue sharing agreements with the state’s Indian tribes, which has sidelined what could have significant opposition.

Should the amendment fail, the agreements reached with the Oneida, Seneca and Mohawk would not be impacted.

Under current campaign-finance laws, New York Jobs Now is not subject to caps on contributions.

The group today began airing its first series of TV ads downstate and plans a series of mailers and field work as well.

If approved, four casinos would be built in the first round of construction and limited to the Catskills, the Albany area and the Southern Tier.

Election Day Looming, Casino Campaign Gears Up

A paid advocacy campaign for the amendment that would expand casino gambling in New York will feature a wide spectrum of voter outreach, Business Council President Heather Briccetti said in an interview Wednesday.

“I think you’re going to see the full array of messaging techniques,” she said. “It’s probably going to be some mail, some television, some phone canvassing, door-to-door. I think you’re going to see the full array of campaign techniques.”

The Business Council is part of an overall coalition called New York Jobs Now that has been holding news conferences around the state pushing the casino amendment.

The campaign began in earnest this morning with two ads highlighting the bipartisan support hit the air. as the potential opponents of expanding casino gambling have either been neutralized or have very little money to combat an organized and well-funded effort.

Still, supporters of the casino amendment aren’t necessarily leaving anything to chance with the measure passing. The paid campaign, coming a week before Election, would begin as most voters begin to pay attention to issues.

Two Siena College polls have shown support for the amendment, which grows when voters are read the amendment’s actual language on the ballot that critics have said is too rosy when listing the potential benefits of casinos.

The expectation is for supporters is the vote to be close next month.

“I haven’t seen any internal surveys,” Briccetti said.

“I know that it’s a constitutional amendment that makes it different than what usually gets polled, generally speaking. I know that it’s likely to be close so I think that educating the voters of the benefits of casino gaming is important.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a main backer of the casino amendment, told reporters this week he is “linked” to the amendment.

On Wednesday, he wouldn’t weigh in on whether the paid campaign is beginning too late.

“The people who support it are doing what they do,” he said. “It’s not my place to tell them what to do.”

Pro-Prop. 1 Ads Hit Airwaves, Highlight Contentious Local Races

The pro-casino expansion NY Jobs Now PAC is hitting the airwaves with two TV spots that highlight two of the state’s hottest local races in which the opponents have managed to agree on one thing: Voting “yes” on Prop. 1.

The spot airing in New York City notes that both Democratic mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio and his GOP opponent, Joe Lhota, reiterated their support for the constitutional amendment to expand non-Indian run casino gaming during a debate Tuesday night.

The other ad, which will air on Long Island, points out that Democratic Nassau County executive candidate Tom Suozzi and the man he’s trying to oust, Republican incumbent Ed Mangano, recently appeared together at an unprecedented press conference (organized by NY Jobs Now, of course) to express their support for Prop. 1.

These are the first of what will eventually be a series of statewide ads in advance of the Nov. 5 elections.

The ads also highlight the claims made in the controversial wording that will appear on the ballot on Election Day, saying the plan “keeps good jobs and casino revenue in New York” and will bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to out schools.”

Opponents say those claims are not 100 percent substantiated, and have assailed the Cuomo administration for manipulating the ballot language to put this proposal in the best possible light.

A lawsuit challenging the wording was unsuccessful.

Cuomo has made clear that seeing Prop. 1 pass is very important to him. He even went so far as to say this week that he is personally “linked” to the casino proposal, upping the ante if the amendment doesn’t pass muster with the public next month.

Cuomo: I’m ‘Linked’ To Casino Proposal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier today insisted he hasn’t been trying to distance himself from the amendment that would expand casino gambling in New York, and also confirmed that a campaign featuring direct mail and television ads would come soon.

“I am linked to it,” Cuomo said. “It was my proposal. I mean, you can’t be any more linked to it than I am. It was my idea.”

Cuomo had first raised the possibility of expanding casino gambling in New York to commercial developers and beyond the state’s American Indian tribes.

First envisioned as a plan to bring a casino and resort to the area adjacent the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the plan turned to building casinos upstate after an agreement with Malaysian-based Genting could not be reached with the state.

Cuomo forged revenue sharing and exclusivity agreements with Indian nations that run casinos, limiting casino development to the Catskills, Albany area and the Southern Tier.

But the governor this summer and up until recently has not actively appeared to back the amendment, which voters will consider next month.

At the same time, gambling opponents pointed to the wording of the casino amendment that highlighted the potential benefits of gambling, including an increase in economic development and school aid as a sign the administration was trying to sway voters with non-neutral language (an effort to halt the amendment as it appears on the ballot was thwarted by a state judge this month).

Cuomo said the current effort to get voters on board with the casino amendment is different than his push on the legislative front, where lawmakers had to adopt the amendment in two different sessions of the Legislature and then pass enabling legislation.

“When we have a legislative issue the audience is the state Legislature We design a campaignt to speak to them,” Cuomo said. “This is a totally different effort. This is an electoral effort where people will vote.”

“This is about television commercials. This is about direct mailings. And that’s how this campaign is going to run and won or lost and that’s what I’m spending my time on.”

That will most likely be undertaken by New York Jobs Now, a coalition of business and union interests and elected officials backing the amendment.

It’s likely that ad campaign won’t be begin until just before Election Day when voters in an off-cycle election year are most likely to be paying attention.

It’s Been A Good Week For The Pro-Casino Side

The last several days has brought some good news for the supporters of expanding casino gambling through a Constitutional amendment, due before voters next month.

On Wednesday, a state judge this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Brooklyn-based attorney that challenged the process by which the amendment’s language was developed.

The attorney, Eric Snyder, pointed to what gambling opponents consider to be overly rosy projections should commercial casinos be built in New York: more jobs, lower property taxes and extra cash for schools.

But the language will stand and go before voters and Snyder on Thursday indicated he won’t file a last-minute appeal to Judge Richard Platkin’s ruling.

At the same time, the ballot referendum committee supporting the amendment is holding events around the state to drum up local support for the amendment.

The group New York Jobs Now previously held a news conference in Albany and then down on Long Island featuring the Republican and Democratic rivals for Nassau county executive, Ed Mangano and Tom Suozzi.

Today, New York Jobs Now headed to Rochester, with Assemblyman Joe Morelle leading a news conference on the benefits of casino expansion. Morelle is a key legislative ally for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a backer of the casino push.

Like Long Island, Rochester is not due to receive a casino in the first phase of licensing.

Enabling legislation and revenue-sharing agreements forged with American Indian tribes that run casinos in upstate New York have restricted development to the Southern Tier, the Catskills and the Albany area.

How well this bodes for finding votes in western New York remains to be seen. Proponents of casinos argue the state will benefit as a whole from the increased education aid the casinos are expected to produce.

But there is the concern, first raised in the beginning of the year, that getting out the vote for casinos may be difficult, especially given the turnout is expected to be concentrated in New York City this year due to the mayoral election.

Nevertheless, an embryonic advertising campaign is beginning in the form of Nevele through billboards and a web presence pushing for the amendment.

Mangano, Suozzi Join Forces For Cuomo’s Casino Amendment

ICYMI, this was item No. 2 in today’s Morning Memo, and the event in question is about to take place (at noon) on the steps of the Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola:

A fascinating press release landed in our inbox bright and early this morning, announcing Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his Democratic opponent, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, plan to declare a truce in their increasingly nasty re-match today to unite (albeit briefly) behind the governor’s casino amendment.

The duo will join Long Island Association President and CEO Kevin Law, Long Island Federation of Labor President John Durso in urging Long Islanders to vote “yes” on Prop. 1, and also will detail the $63 million worth of revenues for schools and local governments that Cuomo says will come to the area if non-Indian run casinos are approved.

Regardless of whether the casino amendment fails or succeeds, two VLT parlors are coming to Long Island. And, in fact, if the referendum goes down, an additional parlor will be added to the mix for Nassau County.

But voters don’t get a say on any of that.

It’s interesting, but not entirely surprising, that the idea of more casino revenue in local government coffers appeals to both Mangano and Suozzi. What’s amazing is that Cuomo, who won’t be anywhere near this Long Island event today, has managed to get these two to cooperate with just three weeks remaining until Election Day.

Then again, Cuomo hasn’t yet bestowed an endorsement on anyone in this race, and there has been speculation that he favors Mangano over his fellow Democrat, Sozzui, who was once a gubernatorial contender himself.

Suozzi, of course, would very much like to receive the nod of the popular governor – especially since a recent Siena poll showed him trailing rather badly – and Mangano would like to maintain the perception that he has the governor’s ear. So, there’s definitely more than sufficient incentive for both of them to make nice for an hour or so.

Pro-Casino Committee Doesn’t See Any Leading Language

Leaders of the committee backing the ballot referendum that would expand casino gambling in New York do not believe the ballot language before voters next month is leading or overly rosey.

Business Council President and CEO Heather Briccetti, along with Capital Region-area officials, held a news conference today to push the benefits of expanding non-Indian gaming, focusing in particular on the claim that local communities will see more revenue and be able to lower property taxes.

But the casino referendum is seeing its fair share of controversy, in part thanks to how it’s been presented to voters. The language spells out the benefits of casino gambling revenue, promising that approval would mean education aid, more jobs and and extra revenue for local governments.

The language is even being challenged in state court on Friday, while good-government groups today filed an amicus brief to formally express its concern over how the language is presented.

But Briccetti, who is leading the NY Jobs Now coalition that is registered as a ballot referendum committee with the state Board of Elections, said she doesn’t believe voters are being misled.

“I disagree with the assertion that it is a rosey picture. I think it says what the purpose of the amendment is for,” Briccetti said.

She said the casino wording isn’t out of the norm of other amendments to the constitution.

“I don’t think that is in any way different than most ballot positions than we’ve ever seen,” she added. “You can split hairs if you want, but I don’t see that as any different.”

The ballot lanugage itself is this: “The purpose of the proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated.”

Meanwhile, it remains unclear when the committee will move forward with an advertising campaign in favor of the amendment.

The coalition is backed by businesses, private sector labor organizations and elected officials, and it can raise unlimited funds to meet his goal, according to Board of Elections guidelines and court rulings.

Briccetti was unsure when the campaign would begin, but it is likely to include TV ads and some mail. She reiterated the campaign is prepared to spend “millions.”

She admitted that Election Day is less than three weeks away at this point and a paid media campaign is yet to start, adding: “You have a short window. Everyone’s attention was on the New York City primary, but this was not a new issue.”