If the state constitution is amended to allow non-Indian casino gambling, village of Lake George Mayor Robert Blais wants to be prepared to host a casino.
“I haven’t made up my mind. I’ve had an open mind on this all the time,” said Blais, who has heard from village residents on both sides of the issue. “Whether we’re in the mix or not, we certainly have to be ahead of the curve.”
Blais wants to commission a study that would weigh the variables of having a casino in the Lake George area: potential tax revenues, employment, safety concerns, police and infrastructure needs. Additionally, he wants to study the impact of a casino in Saratoga Springs so officials can assess what that might mean for hotel bookings in the village.
In 1996 when Gov. George Pataki commissioned a study about casino gambling, it cited Saratoga or Warren counties as possible locations for a casino. Blais, who was mayor at the time, said it became clear that Saratoga Springs or Lake George would probably be well-suited for a casino.
A major concern for Blais is how a casino in or around Lake George would affect the village’s reputation and feel. “We’ve been a very successful family-oriented resort ... and I believe that we need to find out in a study about what actual impact a gambling casino would have on a family-oriented resort,” he said. “It’s a very emotionally charged issue and could impact the fate of the Lake George region for years to come. Do we want to be known as a family resort or a casino town?”
EXTEND THE SEASON
Part of the push for a casino in Lake George is the village’s lack of year-round businesses. “I do believe that with casino gambling that certainly more stores would be open and employment would be helped. It would certainly put more people to work on a yearlong basis,” Blais said.
“We’re always trying to extend the season,” he said. “But at what cost?”
One potential site that Blais identified as ideal for a casino was the Roaring Brook Ranch in the town of Lake George. However, he noted the property would need water and sewer lines. The ranch’s owners did not respond to an email request for an interview.
Peter Aust, president of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, said there haven’t been studies in the past regarding a casino in Lake George because it wasn’t possible to run one there. “We would certainly support having a study done to look at the opportunities that our region might have if a casino was located here,” he added.
If casino gambling were approved in the state, Aust said the chamber would serve in an advocacy role.
One potential outcome is for a casino to be placed in Saratoga Springs, which Blais said could bring the same benefits to Lake George as the Saratoga Race Course. “Would it be more advantageous to have the casino in Saratoga and have the folks staying here in the hotels and motels, based on what we know about the racing season? We see room occupancy go up here in August based on the track,” he said.
Blais estimated that a survey would cost at least $20,000 and said he hoped to implement one if the state Legislature approves casino gambling in 2012. If the state Legislature does approve casino gambling, it would have to do it again in the next legislative session and then the measure would have to face a referendum of New York voters.