The casino debate is about to begin in Schenectady.
First, Rush Street Gaming will presents its plans to the Schenectady City Council at its meeting Monday.
Then, as the council discusses whether to support the plan, the Schenectady County Legislature will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. The Legislature may also discuss whether to support the casino.
On Saturday, Stockade neighborhood residents opposed to the casino will meet to sign a petition and write letters against the proposal.
All in all, it’s shaping up to be a big week for casino advocates and opponents.
The casino presentation begins at 5:30 p.m. in the upstairs council chamber at City Hall. The public hearing will be on the sixth floor of the County Office Building at 620 State St.
The opposition meeting will be Saturday, June 7, at 1 p.m. at Arthur’s Market in the Stockade.
The two governmental meetings could be crucial to the success of the casino proposal. The state will only consider a casino application if it includes a resolution of support from the host community, which in this case would be the City Council or the county Legislature.
Time is ticking — applications are due June 30, so the resolutions must be complete by then.
The state will also consider opposition before deciding which proposals to accept. There are four licenses available for the Hudson Valley, Capital Region and Southern Tier, with one of the regions getting two.
The City Council is split on the issue and might not pass a resolution in time. That’s where the Legislature comes in. Gary Hughes, the Legislature’s majority leader, said he didn’t see a possible resolution as a “just-in-case” measure. He said he’s confident the City Council will pass a resolution of support.
But in the meantime, he said, he wanted to help get the casino accepted by the state.
“Look, there’s going to be a casino in the Capital Region,” he said. “It’s important we do everything that we can to ensure that that casino is developed in such a way that it does everything it can for Schenectady County.”
He noted that millions of dollars in revenue would only come to the county, city and school districts if a casino is sited here. But he’s more concerned about what could happen if the casino is built somewhere else.
“A casino somewhere else could be detrimental to our arts district,” he said. “It could lock up performances that could otherwise come to Proctors.”
The casino developers in Schenectady have drafted a plan in partnership with Proctors, he noted, while other developers propose much larger facilities that could compete with the theater. He feels safer with Rush Street Gaming.
“It means a ton to me that [Proctors CEO] Phillip Morris said this will be good,” Hughes said.
But some residents are worried that a local casino could bring crime to Schenectady while also tempting desperate people to risk all their money for little gain. Stockade residents David Giacalone and Richard Genest are organizing the meeting at Arthur’s Market to fight the casino.
“The gathering at Arthur’s will be aimed at showing that there is strong opposition to the casino in the Stockade community,” Giacalone said. “There will be a petition addressed to the City Council and the Gaming Facility Siting Board stating opposition to having a casino so close to an important residential historic district, due to the expected increase in crime and traffic and other quality-of-life factors.”
The Stockade Association has not held a meeting on the issue and one is not planned at this time. However, the East Front Street Neighborhood Association has come out strongly in favor of the casino. East Front Street would be slightly closer to the casino than the Stockade.
The proposed casino would be built on the former Alco property along Erie Boulevard, next to the Mohawk River. Although details are sparse, local officials said the casino developers promised to build a small entertainment venue so that it would not compete with Proctors, and they would pay above minimum wage to all their workers.