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Amsterdam, East Greenbush Casino Projects Move Ahead

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WAMC
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As some residents of one local community step up their resistance to a regional casino, people a few Thruway exits west are crossing their fingers that they could host a casino resort.

Cara Benson with the group Save East Greenbush says there are numerous arguments against building a $300 million gaming hall on Thompson Hill, including concerns the proposed Rensselaer County site contains federal wetlands and an aquifer.  "First of all, there has been no environmental review of the project, as we see down in Ulster County with Nevele's proposal. They went through an exhaustive state environmental quality review act process - and it took them two years to go through the process to be shovel-ready. And that is prior to their application for a license. There's been no SEQR here and we have grave concerns of a spectacularly poor choice of a location in a residential buffer district. These areas are intended to support low-density, agricultural, residential and rural uses, which are not a casino."

On Monday, developers Saratoga Casino and Raceway and Churchill Downs Incorporated unveiled updated plans for the East Greenbush site: an eight-story hotel and casino, according to a press release, "designed to complement the existing iconic skyline and add a forward-looking facade that leads the region into a future of increased tourism, opportunity and economic growth."  Calls to spokesperson Rita Cox were not returned in time for broadcast.

The project has the unanimous support of the East Greenbush Town Board.

Cara Benson spoke of the oft-mentioned dangers, like crime and gambling addiction, a casino would bring to the tranquil town — dangers magnified as "casino footprints" shrink.   "With the approval of the casino over in Springfield, we're seeing smaller and smaller regions that'll be drawing on their customer base."

And Benson hints public officials who fast-tracked the casino project they may be in for a shock come November.  "No matter what the state gaming association decides, this will have repercussions in East Greenbush for many years at the town and state level."

Another group called No East Greenbush Casino is also lobbying against the proposed project and has threatened to take legal action to block it.

Public attitude is strikingly different a few counties west, where developers are hoping to build on 512 acres spanning the Town of Florida and city of Amsterdam, near Thruway Exit 27. Montgomery County executive Matt Ossenfort tells Newschannel13 residents in his financially depressed county relish the idea of a casino project.   "Not one negative comment! A unanimous vote by the board. It speaks to the need here to the community and the willingness to embrace the change and embrace this opportunity."

However, a Montgomery County casino proposal will only see light of day if the state agrees to change a few rules set down for granting a casino license, including halving the license fee from $50 to $25 million, and obtaining a 60-day extension beyond the New York State Gaming Commission's June 30th deadline for all Capital Region casino applications to be filed. The Montgomery County Legislature is expected to vote June 24th to ask the state to approve the changes.  The commission is expected to announce a site decision in the fall.

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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