New York State casino hearings

Hundreds of area residents are turning up to be heard at three planned New York State casino hearings this week. (Image: AP/Mike Groll)

New York State casinos are coming to the Upstate region, and the process of licensing such venues is moving along quickly. But exactly who will be running these resorts and where they will be located is still up for debate, and both supporters and detractors of various plans are certainly making their voices heard.

Three days of public hearings on the Upstate New York casino plans are underway in Albany, allowing New Yorkers to voice their opinions on which towns need casinos, where gambling isn’t wanted, and anything else that might be on anyone’s mind who is potentially impacted.

Three Regional Meetings Scheduled This Week

On Monday, the Albany meeting was concerned with the four proposals on the table for the Capital Region. On Tuesday, the New York State Gaming Commission moves to Poughkeepsie to talk about the potential casinos that could come to the Catskills and the Hudson Valley, while a Wednesday hearing in Ithaca will focus on the Southern Tier/Finger Lakes region.

Not surprisingly, the supporters of various plans are likely to focus on the potential economic benefits for the towns and cities where the casinos might be built, while opponents will focus on the social ills they could bring, such as problem gambling and crime.

Supporters Argue for Economic Benefits

Proponents of a proposed resort at Howe Caverns, a popular tourist attraction in Schoharie County, attended a pep rally over the weekend before arriving at the Monday hearing on buses.

“It is something that we need here in the county,” one supporter of the casino said at the rally. The Schoharie County region was devastated by massive floods during and after Hurricane Irene in 2011, and supporters say the casino could help the entire county recover, something it has struggled to do as populations have fallen and many buildings remain abandoned.

“Strong local government and local support – it’s all there in a package,” said State Senator James Seward (R-Oneonta), who also pointed out that a resort would benefit from being built next to an existing tourist attraction. “It’s ready to be constructed…we’re ready to rebuild our region’s economy.”

There was also plenty of support shown for the Rivers Casino & Resort, which would be built in Schenectady. Supporters wore teal shirts, and even brought a cake that showed a rendering of the casino. Schenectady Chamber of Commerce President Charles Steiner spoke on behalf of the project, once again pointing out the potential economic benefits.

“It’s an investment Schenectady needs,” Steiner said. “[It] has the potential to shift our entire regional economy in a positive way.”

Residents Protest Capital View Casino

The most contentious project appeared to be the Capital View Casino proposal in East Greenbush. Dozens of Rensselaer County residents protested with signs and spoke to the board about the increase in traffic and crime they feared the project it could cause. But that project also had its share of supporters. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said that Capital View could help create jobs and increase tourism, which would provide more customers for businesses in the region.

Perhaps the biggest name in the regional casino battle is the Hard Rock project, which is set to be built in Rensselaer. Supporters pointed to the attractive brand name and its excellent location as reasons why the Hard Rock should ultimately be licensed by the state.