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Communities & Casinos

Gambling chips

Debate over the locations of casinos in New York has intensified. Several municipalities are mulling over the issue.

Many communities across New York are talking about building casinos. Reactions have been mixed. In Saratoga Springs, home to a Racino, the city council came out against "upgrading" to a casino model, prompting developer Saratoga Casino And Raceway to look to places like Newburgh in Orange County and East Greenbush in Rensselaer County as potential casino sites.

With Greene and Columbia Counties backing away from gaming, the Cobleskill Town Board has put its support behind the proposed Howe Caverns Casino, a 330-acre site that already has the support of the Schoharie County Board.

Saratoga Casino and Raceway recently proposed a new destination resort casino for Rensselaer County: the Town of East Greenbush submitted a $1 million application fee without public input.  Local media reports indicate some residents are ambivalent about the idea of a gaming facility setting up shop in town. And theater owners across the region are also concerned.

A coalition of Capital Region arts non-profits operating under the moniker "Upstate Theaters for a Fair Game" argue casino expansion, especially in East Greenbush, would upset what it refers to as "local entertainment ecosystems."

"The Casino at East Greenbush "would be a 100,000-square-foot facility off Thompson Hill Road with a 300-room hotel, restaurants, and an entertainment venue.

The arts reps say for-profit groups have the monetary wherewithal to cut better deals with talent agents, booking agencies and stars than non-profits.

When the coalition announced its formation last fall, group chair and Proctors CEO Philip Morris emphasized the aim is to ensure a level playing field is created for all entertainment venues seeking to bring talent to their communities.   "Turning Stone, which has a very modest facility, has largely turned the Stanley Theater in Utica into 5 3-night Broadway shows and that's all. So after the city of Utica committed 20 million dollars to expansion, that facility is basically empty because of the events at Turning Stone.  From just my point of view at Proctor's, there are events I cannot get because Turning Stone gets them and puts exclusivity on them. We have less programming, though not so much that it's painful, than we would because I hear it's gonna be at Turning Stone, and that's that, I can't get it."

Saratoga City Center President Mark Baker shared his worries that an expanded gaming facility (in the Capital Region) would be devastating to local performing arts organizations and convention centers.   "A competitive gaming event center with live entertainment and exhibit capabilities, underwritten by gaming revenues, would be devastating to the performing arts community, including SPAC, Proctor's, Palace, UPH and event facilities which would include the (Saratoga) City Center and the (Albany) Times Union Center."

Saratoga Casino & Raceway spokesperson Rita Cox did not return a call for comment in time for broadcast.  Town of East Greenbush Supervisor Keith Langley was said to be in a marathon meeting, unavailable for comment.

The Schenectady City Council Monday night avoided taking action on a resolution that would have laid the groundwork for a casino proposal at the site of the former ALCO plant.

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo explains:   "We had on the agenda to pass a zoning change in that area that would eventually allow a casino to be built. Right now it's not zoned for that. However, why that got tabled is one of us was missing. We felt like it was an important enough issue that all of the council members should have their vice heard. And because it wasn't extremely time-sensitive, it was easy to put it off for one cycle or two, depending on the circumstances. It wasn't that the idea of a casino came up and we refused to vote on it. It was a very preliminary move on our part to say okay, well, if we decide to go forward with a casino after certainly gathering some more information and even seeing a plan, which we don't have or haven't seen yet, this part of the red tape will be out of the way."

Dave Lucas:  "Have any proposals, rumors, plans, surfaced about a casino in Schenectady?"

Leesa Perazzo:  "There is an operator that has put the money in for the application process, but we haven't heard from that operator, we don't have knowledge of who that operator is yet."

The Times Union says that unidentified operator has a $150 million construction project in mind.

All New York casino bids are due by June 30. The state will decide where the casinos will be located in early autumn.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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