There have been some changes on the ever-shifting casino landscape in the Albany area.
A suburban Albany community is dead-set against the proposed E23 casino at Exit 23 of the Thruway. The Bethlehem Town Board passed a resolution opposing it Wednesday. Board member Julie Sasso reads from the official transcript. "It is the sense of the town board of the town of Bethlehem that our community is opposed to the E23 casino proposal as well as other proposals within the Capital Region. We are concerned with the welfare of the entire community, the impact on citizens, and we question the long term economic and fiscal benefit of such ventures. And we intend to reach out to other municipalities, including the City of Albany, and neighboring towns and cities, to see if they too would become involved in this public debate."
Sasso says community members spoke out during an hour-long informal hearing; 22 spoke against casinos, one in favor.
Meanwhile, the Rensselaer County casino project has hit the circular file. Cordish Companies and Penn National Gaming announced Wednesday they'll ask for a refund of the $1 million application fee paid to state regulators for that proposal. The team is intent on focusing on an alternative casino proposal in Orange County, which the two developers believe provides them with "best opportunity" to win a casino license.
Rensselaer Mayor Dan Dwyer was not available for comment. The Albany Business Review reported Dwyer was "disappointed" Penn National Gaming and Cordish decided not to pursue a license to build a casino along the waterfront. Dwyer told the paper that one of the factors in the decision involved payments a casino operator would have to make to Saratoga Casino and Raceway to compensate for expected declines in harness racing purses when a full-scale casino opens in the Capital Region.
The East Greenbush casino proposal was to come under fire Thursday night, with Les Bernal of the "Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation," scheduled to address the First Methodist Church. He spoke with WAMC earlier Thursday... "What we're debating here is that this is a government program. Casinos represent a government program that essentially creates unfairness and inequality in our society. I worked in the Massachusetts senate as a chief of staff. I've gambled a few times in my life. I never questioned the issue of government-sponsored gambling before. I worked for a Senator there who was strongly opposed to the issue. And it was one of those issues where the more you learn about it and you realize how corrupting it is and the powerful influence it has, in the inequality and unfairness in our society today, that to me, anyone who is interested in reforming America for the better, it runs through this issue because this represents the public voice of government today."
There are 19 casino proposals at this time, with up to four authorized for three regions: the Albany-Saratoga area, the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region and the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley, which includes Orange County.
Applicants have until June 30 to submit final proposals.