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Picture Of Casino Gambling In Capital Region Coming More Into Focus

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The picture of casino gambling in New York’s Capital Region is coming more into focus, with word that a Western New York company is seeking possible development in Albany.

According to a local attorney, the Rochester-based Capital Gaming LLC has signed a contract to purchase Tobin’s First Prize Center, the long-vacant site of a former meat packing facility located near I-90 in Albany.

Albany-based Attorney Robert E. Ganz, a partner with Exchange Street Associates, an organization that has been trying to find new use for the site, declined comment to WAMC but told the Albany Business Review, "We would like to finally dispose of it. An offer has been made and a contract signed. While there are contingencies, we hope this will finally be the contract that will be consummated."

Ganz declined to go into further detail about Capital Gaming LLC. A message was left for Flaum Management Co. Inc., also of Rochester, which shares the same address as Capital Gaming LLC.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said she has not seen the proposal and needs to consider multiple factors before forming an opinion on casino development in the capital city. 

"I need to understand exactly what's being proposed, the size, the scale, what other facilities would be built along with that casino or would be proposed with that, and really make sure that I advocate for the residents and businesses in Albany to make sure that it has a positive impact," said Sheehan.

Sheehan said she also needs to consider the sentiment of Albany residents, who narrowly defeated New York’s casino ballot measure in November.

Meanwhile, in Saratoga County, discussion focused on casino expansion at Saratoga Casino and Raceway has caused two organizations to speak against each other.

In a press conference hosted by Destination Saratoga, employees of Saratoga Casino and Raceway, the group’s sponsor, expressed their concern that the Racino was being misrepresented.

Danelle Healy, a Human Resources Generalist at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, said she is unhappy with what she called misinformation being circulated around through the Saratoga community and the media.

"The information people are saying about us....that information is incorrect," said Healy. "They don't know what a great place this is to work for."

Saratoga Casino and Raceway employs 630 individuals.

Sara Boivin, a spokeswoman for SAVE Saratoga, the organization against casino expansion in Saratoga Springs, said her group has not taken a position against the existing facilities at Saratoga Casino and Raceway or its employees.

However, Boivin criticized casino lobbyist James Featherstonhaugh, part-owner of the Casino and Raceway and president of the New York Gaming Association.

"He unfortunately has created the rock and the hard place, and put his employees right in the middle," said Boivin. "We're very empathetic toward them and the fact that they are being manipulated and exploited on the issue. It's really unfortunate."

Healy said she and her fellow employees volunteered to speak at Tuesday’s press conference.

"This was on our own, we wanted to be there," said Healy. "I would've been there in a heartbeat no matter what for that press conference, because I think the community needs to know what a great company I work for and how important these jobs are to our employees."

Boivin said SAVE Saratoga will continue its efforts to bring its message against casino expansion to local leaders.

According to state figures, a casino in Saratoga Springs could bring in $11 million, to be split between the host city and county for school aid and property tax relief. Casino opponents say an expanded casino could increase crime and draw business away from the city's downtown.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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