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Labor, business group raises $2.85 million to spread pro-casino message

ALBANY – The major pro-casino organization pushing the Nov. 5 gambling expansion statewide ballot proposition has reported raising $2.85 million in the past three weeks and spent $361,000, much of it on consulting, digital ads, mailings and production of a television commercial.

New York Jobs Now, whose members include business, casino and labor interests, raised most of its money from companies with an eye toward developing casinos in the Catskills region. The New York City teachers union pumped $250,000 into the effort; backers claim the proposed seven casinos will bring millions in additional aid for public schools.

The pro-casino effort is run out of the headquarters of the Business Council of New York State with help from advisers to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Beginning Oct. 1, it received a $750,000 donation from Yonkers Racing Corp. and $500,000 apiece from Genting New York, part of a Malaysian-based gambling company that runs the big casino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, and PR Properties, which is seeking to run a casino in the Catskills.

Saratoga Harness Racing, which also wants a full casino under Cuomo’s plan, kicked in $250,000, and American Racing & Entertainment, which is hoping to build a Las Vegas-style casino in the eastern part of the Southern Tier, donated $375,000. The Mashantucket Pequot Indians, who own Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, donated $100,000, while Empire Resorts donated $125,000 and Nevele Investors gave $100,000; all three have Catskills casino plans. Some groups, such as Nevele, which spent $40,000 the past few weeks, also are running their own campaigns separate from the New York Jobs now effort.

Other donations flowing from out-of-state include $50,000 from IGT Operations in Reno, Nev. and $225,000 from the New Jersey-based Carpenters Fund. The Oneida Indian Nation, which runs a Central New York casino and was given exclusive casino rights under a deal this year with Cuomo, donated $50,000.

Anti-casino groups say they expect to spend next to nothing in a campaign that relies on grass roots and media outreach.

The new filing by the pro-casino group does not include expenses associated with a television ad campaign that began last week in downstate media markets.

Cuomo’s plan on the Nov. 5 statewide ballot calls for the state to legalize up to seven commercial casinos on non-Indian lands. The facilities would be able to offer real slot machines and table games, such as poker, which are now limited to the state’s six Indian-run casinos.