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Anti-casino advocates launch grass-roots effort in new campaign

A coalition of anti-casino advocates said Monday they will not be able to compete in an airwaves advertising war next year with pro-gambling groups seeking to legalize non-Indian casinos in New York.

"We just don't have those kind of resources," said Joel Rose, a Buffalo resident who heads the Coalition Against Gambling in New York.

"What we have is a lot of people, and we have the truth," Rose said of a grass-roots effort he says will compete against the ever-growing gambling lobby at the State Capitol.

Rose and other casino opponents Monday launched their official effort, which included stops with reporters and legislators, to beat back an attempt by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers to permit up to seven full-scale casinos in undetermined locations around the state.

The Legislature this year gave first passage in a two-step process to a constitutional amendment to permit Las Vegas-style casinos on non-Indian lands. Lawmakers would have to approve it again next year before, at the earliest, it could go to voters statewide in the fall of 2013.

Critics on Monday sought to beat back arguments by Cuomo and casinos that the additional gambling will provide additional jobs and revenues to the state.

The Rev. Duane Motley of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a religious group, said rising crime rates and personal finance issues for problem gamblers will not be worth the expansion. He said it is telling that many New York City-based lawmakers favor the spread of casinos upstate, but not for locations in the five boroughs.

"Why not all seven in New York City?" Motley said of the proposed additional casinos. Only one of the current 14 casinos is located in New York City.

Rose reminded reporters of comments made by the governor's father, Mario Cuomo, when he was governor in which he opposed the further spread of casino gambling. It was Mario Cuomo who OK'd the first Indian casino at the Oneida Indian tribe reservation near Utica.

Rose said Andrew Cuomo is using the "same nonsense" to promote gambling expansion as former Gov. George E. Pataki did when the state brokered deals for three casinos in Western New York run by the Seneca Nation of Indians.

The governor and lawmakers have declined to provide possible locations for new casinos, saying those plans will be announced next year.