Churches urged to speak out against gambling expansion

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10/21/2013

UPDATE: Click here to download a printable bulletin insert that highlights the need to oppose the expansion of casino gambling.

When New Yorkers go to the polls on Nov. 5, 2013, among the items on the ballot will be an amendment to the New York State Constitution to allow the expansion of casino gambling.

Known as Proposition 1, the measure would initially allow for four new casinos to be built in Upstate New York and eventually for another three casinos to be built in New York City.

The Upper New York Conference Social Holiness Team is urging churches to take action to encourage voters to reject the expansion of gambling in New York. Using bulletin inserts, letters to the editor and other means, the Social Holiness Team is asking that churches take a stand against Proposition 1 before Election Day.

"I encourage you to get this word out to your congregation," said George Herrick, member of the Social Holiness Team. "Encourage your people to contact their friends and family, so that we reach a broad community with this side of the question. It would also be helpful if you would write a letter to your local newspaper to encourage a 'no' vote."

The Social Holiness Team brought a recommendation to oppose the expansion of casino gambling to the 2013 Annual Conference, which adopted the measure.

"Therefore be it resolved that the Upper New York Annual Conference reaffirms its rejection of gambling in general and the further expansion of casino gambling, in particular, and urges its churches and members to work against passage of this proposed constitutional amendment by contacting their elected representatives and engaging in grassroots advocacy efforts."
Click here to read the full recommendation.

The Social Holiness Team is joined by the Network of Religious Communities in western New York, which has issued this Citizen Alert  that outlines specific arguments against Proposition 1, and the New York Annual Conference, which has also made a statement opposing the expansion of casinos.

The official ballot text, as listed on ballotpedia.org, reads as follows:

Authorizing Casino Gaming

The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?

Discussing the reasons to reject Proposition 1 is particularly important, Herrick said, because of the language used in the proposition, which many feel is biased toward a yes vote.

A lawsuit that sought to change the "positive descriptive language in the measure’s ballot abstract" was rejected by the state Supreme Court. 

"A challenge to the wording of Proposition 1 that will appear on the November ballot has failed, and, barring a last-minute appeal, people will be seeing that wording supportive of the proposal in the November ballot question," Herrick said.