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Battle Expected Over Slots at New York Casinos

5 July 2001

ALBANY, New York – July 5, 2001 – As reported by the Associated Press: "A major hurdle facing the agreement between Gov. George Pataki and leaders of the Seneca Indian Nation designed to put casinos in Niagara Falls and Buffalo is the legal status of slot machines in New York.

"…The June 20 agreement subject to approval by the state Legislature, the federal government and members of the Seneca tribe provides for the casinos to have slot machines and for the state to get up to 25 percent of the revenue from them.

"The slots would be worth more than $800 million to the state over the first 14 years of the agreement, according to Pataki.

"…[Albany lawyer Cornelius Murray].who has filed lawsuits on behalf of casino gambling opponents in the past, said Tuesday the agreement will face a court challenge if approved by the Legislature and the Senecas.

"…At issue is a provision of the New York state Constitution that states: `'No lottery or the sale of lottery tickets, pool-selling, bookmaking, or any other kind of gambling, except lotteries operated by the state ... and except pari-mutuel betting on horse races ... shall hereafter be authorized or allowed within the state.''

"On Sept. 8, 1981, then-state Attorney General Robert Abrams issued an advisory opinion that the state constitution's anti-gambling ''prohibition extends to card games played for money, including black jack and poker, and slot machines.''

"…Under Pataki's agreement with Seneca leaders, the Legislature would simply ditch a section of the state's penal law that outlaws slot machines.

"The Pataki camp argues that simple step is all that's needed because of another provision in the state constitution authorizing Las Vegas Night gaming. That provision authorizes, subject to legislative regulation, `games in which prizes are awarded on the basis of a winning number or numbers, color or colors, or symbol or symbols determined by chance.''

"That would include slot machines, if the Legislature approves his legislation, according to Pataki.

"…Pataki's Republican allies in the state Senate pushed his legislation through that chamber the day after the governor announced the agreement with the Senecas. However, Democrats who control the state Assembly have balked at any quick approval, saying they want more details.

"…Murray said that in addition to the slot machine issue, the coalition's lawsuit will argue there is a state constitutional prohibition against commercial casino gambling, that the Pataki legislation represents 'too broad a delegation of power' by the Legislature and that it is illegal under federal law for the state to require 25 percent of the Senecas' revenue.

"Pataki aides said if slot machines are permitted at Seneca-run casinos by the Legislature, they would then be available to the Oneida Indian-run Turning Stone casino west of Albany and to a casino operated by the Mohawks near the Canadian border…"

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