01/29/2002 1:00AM

Suit could hinder New York VLT's


NEW YORK - A group of New York legislators, civic officials, and nonprofit organizations filed a lawsuit Tuesday morning in the state's Supreme Court challenging legislation passed last year that legalized video lottery machines at racetracks.

The lawsuit was brought by Sen. Frank Padavan, a Queens Republican; Representative William Parment, a Jamestown Democrat; Joe Dalton, the president of the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce; and an organization called New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, according to Dalton. A Saratoga church also signed on to the effort, Dalton said.

The lawsuit said that the legislation violates the state Constitution by expanding gambling beyond charitable gaming, bingo, and parimutuel racing. The suit also says that the legislation violates legal provisions that require all proceeds from lottery games to go to education.

The legislation legalized video lottery terminals, which are very similar to slot machines, at Aqueduct, Finger Lakes, Monticello Raceway, Yonkers, and Vernon Downs.

Dalton said that supporters of the lawsuit were concerned about the impact of expanded gambling on the upstate New York economy. He said recent estimates show that the machines would generate $95 million in revenues in and around Saratoga Springs. "That's $95 million that's just getting sucked out of our local economy," Dalton said. "And the local government gets no money, just the social and economic costs."