A large number of casino supporters and opponents showed up on the first of three days of public hearings, to discuss plans for a gambling venue on upstate New York.
There are 16 casino applications for New York and a decision board is responsible of choosing the best ones, as the state will only be offering up to four licenses under the current American gambling laws. The deadline is approaching and a final decision has to be made by this fall, so opponents and supporters alike have grabbed the chance to make their case in front of New York officials.
Participants were given three days to debate the issue and tell officials what they think about the project. The hearing for an Albany-area hotel started on Monday, Poughkeepsie was scheduled for Tuesday, and officials heard residents from Ithaca on Wednesday, with discussions focusing on proposals in the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region.
A chance for New York to grow
These are the areas where casino developers are looking to build new gambling venues:
• Mid-Hudson Valley
• Southern Tier-Finger Lakes
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is in charge of the decision board which will choose the best projects out of a total of 16 offers.
Major casino developers have shown interest in the NY market. Caesars bid for a NY casino located about 50 miles north of Manhattan and has promised to invest $880 million in the gambling venue, while the Mohegan Sun has a completely special approach, and is aiming for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community with its casino project set in the Catskills.
Malaysia’s largest casino company Genting is targeting Asian players with a $1.5 billion resort-casino in Tuxedo. Genting spokesman Stefan Friedmam told reporters: “No doubt there is a saturation issue in the Northeast. What resorts like ours are trying to do is attract a new clientele.”
The governor is hopeful that the new casinos will help create more job opportunities, as well as generate extra income for the state. Cuomo estimated that land-based casinos will add about $430 million to New York’s local budget.
Supporters hope for a positive economic impact
Wearing bright yellow T-shirts, hundreds of people showed up for the debate on Monday to support a proposal for a gambling venue at Howe Caverns. Among the project’s supporters was State Sen. James Seward, a Republican who represents the district including Howe Caverns.
The Senator noted that the project adds a whole new tourist attraction to one of the Capital Region’s most economically depressed counties, and added: “Strong local government and local support – it’s all there in a package. It’s ready to be constructed… We’re ready to rebuild our region’s economy.”
Another group of casino advocates wore teal shirts and even brought a cake featuring the Rivers Casino & Resort’s rendering in frosting. The venue could open in Schenectady.
Charles Steiner, president of the Schenectady Chamber of Commerce told the board: “It’s an investment Schenectady needs that has the potential to shift our entire regional economy in a positive way.”
Pros and cons
As far as the opposition goes, so far people have mostly focused on the Capital View Casino proposed for East Greenbush in Rensselaer County. Residents from this area brought protest signs and complained to the board that such an investment would lead to increased traffic and criminality.
“We are loud and we are forceful because we are determined,” Elizabeth Wade, a resident, told members of the board.
But the project had a number of supporters too, including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who argued that the project would help create jobs for residents living in the area. The casino would also bring new customers to all the local businesses in the region, helping the economy grow, she added.
Another project proposed for Rensselaer – a brand new Hard Rock casino – attracted a lot of supporters. Those in favor of the gambling venue said the brand alone would attract a number of tourists. In addition, the new casino would be located at the nexus of the Hudson River, which makes for a perfect spot.
“We’re in a crossroads and we can utilize that,” David Scott Dwyer said.
More projects to be debated
The next hearing in Poughkeepsie is bound to draw even more attention, as this is the region that has attracted the most interest from investors.
Nine casino developers are looking to build new gambling venues and American poker rooms in the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley; six of them aimed for Orange County, two for Sullivan and one for Ulster as a location. Another three proposals in the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region will be debated on Wednesday.
The Gaming Facility Location Board is made up of five members, who are authorized to recommend up to four proposals. Depending on what they decide, there is a chance that one region will get more than one casino.
According to chairman Kevin Law, the panel has already received nearly 3,000 letters and emails from the residents living in the targeted areas, so the board has a tough decision to make.