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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gambling interests have spent nearly $50 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in New York since 2005, and the flow is accelerating as the state considers the expansion of casino gambling, an advocacy group reported Wednesday.
Common Cause, which favors public campaign financing, said gambling interests representing the likes of horse tracks, casinos and Indian tribes spent $40 million on lobbying from 2005 through June 2012 and roughly $7.1 million in campaign contributions. Looking at the first half of this year, the gambling industry is on pace to spend more money than in any prior year.
"The gambling industry's conduct provides a vivid case study of how a deep pocketed special interest group can use lobbying and campaign contributions to influence policy in New York," according to the report.
Gambling interests picked up spending this year as New York's Legislature approved a measure to amend the state constitution to allow gambling beyond Indian land. That measure requires another legislative vote before New Yorkers can make the final decision in a referendum.
The biggest spenders were New York's "racinos," which are horse tracks with video lottery terminals. Racino interests spent $11.6 million on lobbying and $2.5 million on campaign contributions, and donated an additional $2.4 million to the Committee to Save New York, a lobbying group created to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his policies.
They were followed by other horse racing interests and Indian tribes.
The top spender over the period was the Oneida Indian Nation, which operates the Turning Stone casino near Utica. The tribe spent $3.5 million, with $1.7 million of that spent during 2005 on political advertising as part of a campaign to ensure the continued legality of Turning Stone, according to the report.
Oneida spokesman Dan Smith said the tribe is involved with the state on a host of issues other than gambling, such as land use, cultural initiatives, manufacturing and environmental protection.
"As one of the biggest employers and economic engines in central New York, we are absolutely going to fight for policies that we believe will help create jobs and improve New York state's economy," he said in a statement.
The Oneidas were followed by Empire Resorts, which runs a racino in Monticello, N.Y., with $3.4 million in spending. Empire declined to comment.