N.Y. Gambling Referendum Language Suit Dismissed by Judge

A judge threw out a legal challenge to the wording of a referendum to go to voters next month that would authorize casino gambling’s expansion in New York state.

Judge Richard Platkin of state Supreme Court in Albany dismissed the suit today. He rejected claims that the ballot’s wording was slanted in favor of the measure and that the state Board of Elections violated an open-meetings law in adopting it.

The suit was filed by Brooklyn lawyer Eric J. Snyder, who says he opposes the proliferation of gambling in New York. Snyder said the ballot’s statement that the measure is designed to promote job growth and increase aid to schools will advocate a “yes” vote using public funds, in violation of the state constitution.

Platkin ruled that the claim of improper advocacy was barred by the statute of limitations and a claim that the Board of Elections exceeded its authority was “both untimely and lacking in legal merit.”

The judge also rejected the claim that the board violated the state’s open-meetings law by holding the vote on the ballot language in secret. That accusation was disproved by “documentary evidence” including a transcript of the meeting in July, Platkin wrote.

Under state law, gambling measures must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions, followed by a referendum. Lawmakers last year passed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to open seven casinos to boost the upstate economy and ratified it in June. The election is Nov. 5.

Appeal Planned

Snyder said today he plans to appeal Platkin’s ruling. He was “shocked” that the court rejected his claim that the vote was held in secret since the Board of Elections didn’t ask for that claim to be dismissed, he said.

“Ignoring the attorney general’s recommendation, the Board of Elections changed the neutrally worded casino amendment by adding language to gain voter support,” Snyder said in an e-mail. “The additional language was not changed at an open public meeting as required by law and the board waited almost four weeks, after the time period to raise a court challenge had passed, before making the new wording public.”

Cuomo’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

The measure would create two rounds of casino licensing, the first calling for four facilities upstate. Seven years after those licenses were sold, the second round would permit another three casinos in locations to be determined. Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island would also each get a video-slot facility.

“We’re pleased that the judge accepted our argument that the counties can move forward with the election process,” Tom Connolly, a spokesman for the Board of Elections, said in a telephone interview.

The case is Snyder v. Walsh, 5449/2013, New York State Supreme Court, Albany County.