The debate over casino development in Saratoga County is expanding, as the town of Moreau is making its own pitch for a possible casino location.
The town of Moreau is pitching the idea to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office to establish a casino on Mt. McGregor, home to a New York State prison slated for closure in July.
Earlier this week, Moreau’s town board approved a measure in support of casino development on the 1,200-acre facility.
Moreau, located in Saratoga County, borders Warren County, which is not suitable for casino development under New York’s casino gambling law approved through a constitutional amendment by a statewide ballot initiative in November.
Moreau Supervisor Preston Jenkins said for an area that depends on tourism, Mt. McGregor, which also sits in the towns of Wilton and Corinth, could be a suitable location for casino development.
"Tourism is our big industry and we have a situation where in Warren County, Lake George was not able to have a casino," said Jenkins. "It being roughly halfway between Lake George and Saratoga Springs would be a great location for it."
Jenkins said Moreau has reached out to Mohegan Sun, a casino developer that pursued a license to build in Palmer, Massachusetts before voters rejected the proposal at the ballot box in November. He said he also has an interest in contacting MGM, among other developers. Jenkins also said he has spoken with Empire State development on casino development at the site.
Jenkins added that with the impending closure of the prison facility, and with GE’s intent to close its Fort Edward plant across the Hudson River, he’d like to see workers find permanent jobs in Moreau.
"Maybe we'd take some people of the Medicade rolls, we'd take people off the food stamp rolls, we actually put them in a position where they can pay their own way and be proud of it," said Jenkins.
The debate over casino development in Saratoga County has mainly focused on Saratoga Springs. Groups both for and against casino expansion at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway have formed in recent months.
Destination Saratoga, a group in favor of expanding gambling at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, announced its formation in December. Destination Saratoga Co-chair Dan Hogan spoke at the press conference in favor of placing a casino in Saratoga Springs.
"It's already a thriving economy. It's already got a vibrant night life, it already has gaming, it has internationally known horse racing, and it has a fine community," said Hogan. "And the people of Saratoga Casino and Raceway want to be a part of that."
Destination Saratoga declined comment on Moreau’s pitch for a casino.
Opponents from SAVE Saratoga say casino expansion in Saratoga Springs could draw visitors away from the city’s downtown, and harm area hotels and arts and entertainment venues including Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Saratoga Springs City Center.
According to figures from New York State, a Saratoga County casino could account for $11.4 million in revenue to be split between the host county and city to assist in lowering property taxes and aiding schools.
Ed Bartholomew, President of EDC Warren County, said although he sees a need for economic development in the Warren-Washington-Saratoga County area, he thinks communities need to be more cautious of development.
"I think there has to be a real close examination of the financial impact on a area before everyone just jumps on board the casino bandwagon," said Bartholomew.
Wilton town supervisor Art Johnson said he plans to sit down and develop a joint proposal with Jenkins on potential development for the Mt. McGregor site to be submitted to Empire State Development. Johnson said he considers a casino one possible option and would like to see facilities on Mt. McGregor return to private hands.
"There are other potential reuses that could be there also," said Johnson. "Condominiums, hotels, it's a site that could be a resort."
Preston Jenkins said he’s not against casino development in Saratoga Springs, but envisions development plans for Mt. McGregor that also could expand trails and recreation in the area.