Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cellini woos key casino voting groups 

The decades-long champion of a Catskill casino says he knows how to try to sway two potential obstacles to legalizing casinos in the state: New York City voters, who narrowly oppose changing the state constitution to allow casinos, and the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community, which is said to morally oppose those casinos.

Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini plans to make the case for a "yes" vote in the November referendum to New York City mayoral candidates and the Hasidic community when the politicians campaign at Sullivan County bungalow colonies this summer.

Former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson campaigned at a Monticello colony last Sunday. Other candidates, such as former Rep. Anthony Weiner and New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, are expected to soon visit Thompson, the summer home to thousands of New York City Jews.

"I want them (the candidates) to support casinos because a lot of the money would be going to education all over the state and in the city," said Cellini, whose office displays scores of new and vintage "Casinos mean jobs" posters, bumper stickers and buttons. They're jobs that, if the referendum passes, would also be available for New York City workers in at least seven years, the soonest the city could get a casino, according to a new state law, tied to the impending referendum.

Cellini says he'll give something to the candidates in return for their casino support.

"I would come out against fracking," he says about the natural gas extraction method of hydraulic fracturing that critics say could pollute drinking water.

Cellini knows the city gets its water from upstate reservoirs like one in Sullivan. But even though proposed regulations would ban fracking in the city watershed, drilling critics say much of the fresh water throughout Sullivan ultimately makes its way to the city.

"They don't want to support us? What, they don't want clean water?" Cellini asked rhetorically.

Cellini already conveyed his message to Thompson — who didn't take an immediate stance.

As for the Hasidim?

Cellini says he's spoken to at least two leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Jews, who politicians covet for their bloc vote. He's asked them to either support the referendum, or not vote against it.

So far, the response has been positive.

"We understand the county needs to grow, and casinos bring business," said Rabbi Moishe Indig. "If it doesn't hurt us and it's good for the neighborhood."

And just to make sure he's covering even more casino approval bases, Cellini plans to ask some 900 towns across the state to pass a resolution supporting the November referendum. He expects his town to pass the resolution Aug. 6.

"The revenue generated by casinos will assist the Town of Thompson, ... but it will also assist your town as well under the Governor's plan," Cellini writes in the cover letter, naming one of the same monetary benefits from casinos he cites in his pitch to the politicians and Hasidim — "to help fund education throughout the state."


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