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Addabbo wants more gambling at Aqueduct

Resorts World Casino New York President Mike Speller stands next to three of the video lottery terminals to be installed at Aqueduct. Photo courtesy Resorts World Casino New York
TimesLedger Newspapers

With public opinion on his side, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said Monday he is working with the operators of the Aqueduct racino to bring full-fledged gambling to the site and the rest of the state.

A Quinnipiac poll from Sept. 21 found 56 percent of state voters favor the creation of casinos “similar to those in Atlantic City and Las Vegas,” including 56 percent of city voters.

The Aqueduct racino, called Resorts World Casino New York, is expected to open this month and is legally restricted to offering only video lottery terminals — devices similar to slot machines — under state law.

A majority of state voters, 56 percent of those polled, said they are in favor of Vegas-style casinos, while 37 percent were opposed.

The same percentage, 56 percent to 37 percent, of city voters approve of the expansion and 58 percent of suburban New Yorkers are in favor of it.

The largest area of support for casinos came from voters with a union member in the household. That group approved of more gambling 61 percent to 32 percent.

But nearly two-thirds of those polled — 63 percent — said casinos will lead to an increase in gambling addiction.

“Roll the dice. Spin the wheel. Hit me. New Yorkers of every stripe say what stays in Vegas should stay in the Empire State as well,” said Quinnipiac spokesman Maurice Carroll. “Casinos would be good for the economy, voters think, but they also think there’d be an increase in gambling addiction.”

Addabbo said expanding gambling to include table games would be a boon to the state’s economy.

The senator said the state constitution would have to be amended to make casinos legal, which requires two votes to approve the measure in consecutive legislative sessions followed by a public referendum.

“Rather than see the money keep going to Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indian casinos upstate, in this stagnant economy I believe we must start the process, including public input, for the expansion of VLT racinos into full casino gaming to increase our revenues and to boost education initiatives,” Addabbo said, noting he is working with Aqueduct to change the law.

“There is much more to offer at Resorts World than just gambling. People can go there to enjoy the restaurants, live entertainment, food court, buffet and, eventually, other amenities.”

Addabbo cited the Quinnipiac poll to show that voters were on his side.

“The smart bets are that voters would want to amend the [state] constitution and ‘let the games begin’ — making it a win-win situation for the economy of our state and for our people,” the senator said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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