By Tom Precious
ALBANY – With no money to spend on a major campaign, anti-casino opponents used a sledge hammer to break apart a slot machine they had set up in a park outside the state Capitol.
The opponents to this fall’s Proposition One – permitting up to seven new, Las Vegas-style casinos in the state – say they are left to such public relations efforts as they do battle against far deeper pockets of casino, business and labor interests pushing for the casino expansion.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,’’ David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, said after taking his turn blasting away at the gambling device organizers had placed on the west park of the Capitol.The machine stubbornly held together for much of the sledge hammer poundings, though shards of glass could be seen flying in different directions with a few of the swipes. Another round of hits while Blankenhorn was talking to reporters reduced the device to a shell.
Blankenhorn, whose group promotes what they call family value issues such as thrift, said the event recalled the days when New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia busted slot machines to highlight gambling problems in the 1930s.
“It’s an attempt to do what Mayor LaGuardia did when he was mayor which is to bring public attention to the actual facts of the matter. I think if we didn’t have an argument to make you could call it a stunt. But we have an argument to make,’’ he told reporters.
Blankenhorn was joined by representatives of anti-casino groups Stop Predatory Gambling and Coalition Against Gambling in New York, which was formed in Buffalo a decade ago. Critics call the expansion a regressive form of taxation, especially on low-income people and individuals with gambling addictions, which will not yield the economic benefits being touted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor says the expansion will create jobs and drive hundreds of millions in additional funding for public schools and local governments each year.
So far, there has been no major campaign spending on any statewide media advertising program by casino companies, though one gambling industry executive told The Buffalo News a couple weeks ago that advocates have been asked to raise up to $5 million on a vote-yes effort.
Blankenhorn said he expects no such fundraising by opponents. “I don’t know of anybody who has any money to spend of that nature,’’ he said.
The slot machine bashing – courtesy of a device critics bought on eBay -- came as both sides are awaiting a decision by a state judge on a lawsuit seeking to at least change what critics call overly rosy language on the statewide ballot for Proposition One. A ruling is expected within days that, critics hope, could even lead to the ballot question being tossed entirely, though few expect the courts to go that far with the court challenge.
taggedAlbany | Andrew Cuomo