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Competition For Casino Heats Up Along Mohawk

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The competition for a casino along the Mohawk River is coming to the forefront as Schenectady County lawmakers support a project in the Electric City, and more details will soon be revealed on a proposal in neighboring Montgomery County.

Monday night, after a lengthy public comment period, Schenectady’s City Council voted on a measure that would support the development of a $450 million resort casino project to be located at the former American Locomotive Company site on Erie Boulevard.

The public was mixed on the proposal, and so was the city council.

Councilman Vincent Riggi voted against the measure, saying he didn’t want to vote on anything he didn’t fully understand.

“We’re deciding on something that could impact Schenectady for years to come without enough information. So mainly because of that, and no other reason, I have to vote no.”

Council president Margaret King thanked the members of the public for voicing their concerns, but voted in favor of the measure.

"I think you made a lot of very valid points, but I am also among those who believe the pros outweigh the cons," said King.

The measure carried 5-2.

Then, Tuesday, the county legislature also weighed in. The lawmakers voted in favor of the  "Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor" on the ALCO site 13-0. Democratic Majority Leader Gary Hughes said it was an easy vote to take.

"We've had public hearings, we've seen the details of the proposal. The group from [Rush Street Gaming LLC]  has an excellent track record. Galesi Group is a known, hometown commodity in Schenectady that has done a significant amount of development already in the city, the pieces just lined up," said Hughes.

According to estimates, the city of Schenectady could benefit from $5.7 million in casino revenues.

However, next week more details will be unveiled on a casino project to be located in Montgomery County in the town of Florida overlooking the City of Amsterdam off I-90 Exit 27.

Amsterdam Mayor Anne Thane argued that it’s time that investment comes west.

"For years and years and years out here in the west we watched money going into the Hudson Valley corridor, and Saratoga, and Luther Forest, and Watervliet, and Schenectady, and it doesn't come west," said Thane.

Thane said that if the intent of the legislation is to transform communities, Amsterdam is well-suited to benefit from investment.

"For the city the jobs and neighborhood revitalization, and downtown rehabilitation, and a vibrant waterfront combined with the casino amenities really would make Amsterdam a destination rather than just a pass-through on the thruway," said Thane.

Amsterdam and Florida could share up to $6 million if the Exit 27 plan comes to fruition. Earlier this year, Montgomery County, the Town of Florida, and the City of Amsterdam all enthusiastically supported measures to approve casino development.

East Greenbush in Rensselaer County is expected to vote on a casino proposal by Saratoga Casino and Raceway later this month.

Casino applications are due to the State Gaming Commission at the end of this month.

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