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Gov. Pataki said here Wednesday that he wants to let the public decide on legalizing casino gambling in the state, and he announced a new, $7 million manufacturing facility for skin-care products in Wheatfield that will create 50 jobs.

Pataki told more than 900 people at the annual Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce awards dinner in the Convention and Civic Center that only the State Legislature can adopt a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling, a move that would set up a referendum. "What I want them to do is give the people the right to vote," Pataki said.

He also pledged that he and state agencies will work with the city and the Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp. on their downtown revitalization plans.

Silipos Inc., a New York City-based firm that manufactures skin-care products, will move into a 39,000-square-foot facility on Williams Road that will be built starting this spring. The company currently employs 50 at its Liberty Drive site.

Before Pataki's arrival at the dinner, a crowd of trade unionists -- estimated by Mayor James C. Galie at about 400 -- demonstrated in front of the convention center, carrying signs about casinos, development and jobs. Some of their leaders were among about 30 people who paid $1,000 each to speak personally to Pataki.

Pataki, who arrived about two hours late, said he is well aware that the state is losing $2 billion annually to casinos in Canada, Connecticut and New Jersey. New York suffers all of the problems associated with gambling because of casinos just outside its borders but enjoys none of the economic benefits, the governor said.

Local pro-casino interests used the governor's visit for an all-out lobbying effort to legalize casino gambling. Galie and leaders of unions and the Niagara Falls Coalition for Casino Gaming said they would talk to the governor.

Frank V. Roma and Sylvia Virtuoso, coalition leaders, said their brief talks with Pataki were worthwhile, as did Edwin A. Cogan, head of the redevelopment effort. All three said Pataki brought hope to the area.

The governor said it is partially the state's fault that Niagara Falls has lagged behind its Ontario sister city in development. The state should have done more, he said.

However, he noted this year the state has allocated $1.3 million to start the design of a new, $20 million observation tower and elevator for Prospect Point.

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