Vogel: Casinos will save the world? Then sure!

The High Line park in the Meatpacking District.
The High Line park in the Meatpacking District. Photo Credit: Getty/Andrew Burton

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A man walks into a polling station to vote for mayor. Surprise! A stealth amendment authorizing new casinos in New York is also on the ballot. That’s great, thinks the man, who votes yes — then winds up divorced, broke and addicted.

OK, not so funny. Because the joke’s on us.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo not only worked to get this amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot, but leaned on the Board of Elections to get it worded in such a way that only a complete fool (or someone who actually knew the facts) would vote against it.

Our governor wasn’t happy with the original, straightforward ballot language, stipulating that the amendment would simply allow the State Legislature “to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos.” Boring!

The new, jazzed-up version says the amendment will be “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.” Wow! In addition, those voting for this bill will get a free holiday turkey and get to go on a date with their favorite celebrity.

OK, that last part’s not in there — yet. But it might as well be.

Outraged with this rosy text, Brooklyn bankruptcy lawyer Eric Snyder has filed suit arguing that the ballot’s language is slanted in favor of passage. You think?

“The Constitution is pretty clear that you can’t use public money to sway or influence a vote,” Snyder told The New York Times.

Snyder has a point. Imagine if the amendment read, “Casinos have been shown to act as parasites on a community, destroy local businesses and increase problem gambling, corruption, foreclosures, crime, bankruptcy, divorce and suicide.”

Might that influence your vote? A Siena College poll reveals that with the new positive language, a majority of people support the amendment, but when neutral language is used voters are evenly divided.

I went out to Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack and asked a middle-aged man glumly pouring money into a slot machine what he thought of the referendum.

“Bad idea,” he said. “Look around. Most of these people are poor working stiffs or retirees. Why am I here? I’m an addict. The casinos love people like me.”

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.