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Losing NY Casino Bidders Move On

WAMC composite photo by Dave Lucas

Months of discussion about jobs, development and construction came to naught for several losing communities last week when just three casino projects got the green light from New York state’s gaming commission. But, communities and developers that lost casino bids are on the rebound.

Last week, the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board rejected 13 proposals in favor of projects in Sullivan, Seneca and Schenectady counties.

Saratoga Casino and Raceway partnered with Kentucky-based gaming giant Churchill Downs as developers of a proposal for East Greenbush, which met with some of the strongest opposition to any of the gaming proposals despite a revenue sharing deal with neighboring Albany. Spokeswoman Rita Cox says the Racino's $30 million expansion plans are still on the table at its Saratoga base,  with groundbreaking in the first quarter of 2015 in preparation for a summer of 2016 opening.    "It will include a hotel, 108 rooms, a swimming pool, spa, 125-130-seat fine dining restaurant, as well as a little bit of meeting space. That's a major project for us and the only one that we're really excited about, 'cause now more than ever, it's important we make sure that our customers have as many options as possible as we head into a competitive environment."

Plans to include an event center were scrubbed.

Regional enthusiasm for rebuilding and revitalization is also apparent in the economically struggling Southern Tier, which was denied a casino the same day it learned fracking would be banned in the state. But now, Tioga and Traditions say that fourth casino license the two developers competed against each other for should go to a joint project they're proposing that would be located at the Tioga Downs racino.

Back in the Capital Region, Mayor Kathy Sheehan saw one missed casino opportunity after another slip past the city of Albany, including the Hard Rock proposal just across the river in Rensselaer. But she believes Schenectady is close enough to benefit the capital.   "We're gonna be reaching out to Schenectady and to the Rivers Casino. This [Albany] is going to be the home to the region's convention center, and as the convention center is built, it’s certainly going to be important to coordinate with all the different venues in that area. And this is going to be a new venue built in Schenectady, so we'll be closely working with them to ensure that residents in Albany have access to jobs and that businesses here have access to be suppliers to the casino, and that our entertainment venues also share in the economic benefits."

Across the river, Rensselaer Mayor Dan Dwyer thought the proposed Hard Rock casino was a sure bet.  "Well I was sorta shocked in a way, I thought we had the best site plan with more revenue to the state than anyone else, and it was a little hard to understand that, how they could turn that down. What's gonna keep people from going over to MGM Grand at Springfield? Hard Rock is the only one that could compete with them. And yet they turned Hard Rock down. So it's a little disconcerting to me."

Dwyer adds the 25-acre site at de Laet's Landing isn't going to sit there. Development is set to begin in the spring: commercial space, condos and perhaps a hotel will be built with private funding.

To the west, the Oneida Indian Nation announced a $20 million casino would be built outside of Syracuse in Chittenango, 60 miles east of Tyre, where the state OKed construction of the Lago Resort and Casino. Dwyer says "the one to watch out for is Turning Stone."   "They're going to put $100 million into expanding Turning Stone out there. It will be very interesting to see what happens here."

Calls to the Town of Tyre, Schoharie County and the Oneida Indian Nation were not returned.

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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