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Crunch Time For Upstate NY Casino Proposals

WAMC composite image by Dave Lucas

Developers seeking state permission to open 16 proposed casinos in upstate New York are presenting their plans before a state board today.

The New York Gaming Facility Location Board is holding two days of presentations from developers today and Tuesday at Empire State Plaza Meeting Room 6,in the shadow of the state capitol.

Three gaming halls are proposed for the Southern Tier, four in the Albany-Saratoga Region, and nine in the Catskills and Hudson Valley region. Up to four casino licenses ultimately will be issued for upstate. Eeach development team will be given 45 minutes to conduct an informational presentation followed by 15 minutes for questions from the board.

Proponents and opponents have been active for months, especially in the Capital Region casino contest.

Anti-casino voices were able to prevail in Saratoga Springs, where a proposal was floated to morph the Racino into a full-fledged casino. More than 57 percent of Saratoga Springs voters voted against last November's casino amendment.

SAVE Saratoga co-founder Colin Klepetar told WAMC at the time:   “We’re concerned with the fact that bringing a casino to Saratoga Spring without any local control or local voice or local say is not a part of the Democratic process... Most other communities are fully embracing brining a casino to their community and Saratoga Springs does not.”

Saratoga Casino and Raceway eventually partnered with Kentucky-based gaming giant Churchill Downs as developers of a proposal for East Greenbush in Rensselaer County.

Albany experienced periods of highs and lows that began with developer David Flaum, whose Capital Gaming LLC proposed putting up a casino at the old Tobin Meat Packing Plant. When that project fell by the wayside, Flaum returned with another ill-fated project to build a gaming hall and water park near Thruway Exit 23. At one point, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced developers had selected the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma to run the proposed E23 casino. 

But then, Sheehan announced the project had crashed.   "The city was informed this morning by a representative from OTB that they are no longer considering the exit 23 site for casino development and they also informed us that they were instead going to pursue an application for the Rensselaer site located across the river."

Developer Flaum was a key player in that decision. Albany officials then hesitated to put their full support behind the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino proposal for downtown Rensselaer, despite developers dangling millions of dollars before city of Albany officials.

Rensselaer Mayor Dan Dwyer :   "Albany is a little tight on cash, so we figure a million dollars would help them in the economic condition they're in."

Neighboring community support is considered an important part of the gaming commission’s siting process. The East Greenbush casino developers made a similar offer, and didn't ask Albany for exclusivity. That deal was announced in late August.

Just days after the Exit 23 project collapsed, Schenectady took a key step in luring Vegas-style gambling to the city: a proposed casino complex would be erected at the old ALCO site along Erie Boulevard.

Developers promised the "Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor" would include a hotel and TV studio along with residential and commercial space.

Last month, New York’s casino siting board voted unanimously to disqualify an application for a major casino project at Thruway Exit 27 in Amsterdam.

The Howe Caverns Casino and Resort in Cobleskill is viewed by observers as the "longshot" in the Capital Region casino race. But anyone who follows races knows that sometimes the "dark horse" wins...

Three additional public hearings on the proposals are scheduled for later in the month in Albany, Poughkeepsie and Ithaca to allow for public comment on the proposals.

The board will announce its recommendations this fall.

Happening in Downtown Albany this afternoon:

  • Capital View Casino & Resort (East Greenbush): 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.   By Saratoga Casino and Raceway and Churchill Downs. Investment: $300 million.
  • Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (Rensselaer): 2:20 p.m. to 3:20 p.m.  By Hard Rock International. Investment: $280 million.
  • Howe Caverns Resort & Casino (Cobleskill): 3:25 p.m. to 4:25 p.m.  Schoharie County. By Howe Caves Development. Investment: $330 million to $450 million.
  • Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor (Schenectady): 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.  By Capital Region Gaming. Investment: $300 million.

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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