Miguel Gonzalez is sick and tired of working for less money than he thinks he’s worth.
Gonzalez, the organizer of a pro-casino rally Wednesday evening in Amsterdam, believes a casino in the area would provide good-paying jobs for him and other residents in Montgomery County.
“This could really put us on the map,” said the city resident. “We can really use some more jobs around here.”
Though 140 people had registered to attend the event on the SAY YES TO EXIT 27 FOR CASINO RALLY Facebook page, only about 25 casino supporters actually showed up. The supporters of a proposed casino that would sit on land near Exit 27 of the Thruway gathered on the Route 30 bridge leading into downtown Amsterdam.
Some 200 yards down the road, about 30 casino opponents from a group called People Against Town of Florida Casino waved signs that read “casiNO” and “No Casino in the Town of Florida.” Though both groups were within shouting distance of each other, the rallies remained civil and focused on touting their respective causes.
Amsterdam police Officer Joe Spencer was standing on the bridge monitoring the scene. He said both sides were respectful of each other and that he did not expect any sort of confrontation.
Lori Rulison, a casino opponent who attended a similar anti-casino rally last week, said it is important for people to speak up and voice concerns about a casino potentially being built in her neighborhood.
“Not everyone is in favor of these casino plans,” she said. “This region needs revitalization, but I don’t think a casino is the way to do it.”
Rulison is also worried that there is an oversaturation of gambling in the region and a casino in Montgomery County is unnecessary.
“What happens if the casino fails or they don’t make any money?” she said. “Then who pays the taxes on the property and what happens to all that money that was invested?”
The concurrent rallies were cut short, however, because of driving rain and flashes of lightning. Both events began at 5 p.m. but lasted only about 30 minutes.
Casino supporters were quick to take cover and abandon their post on the bridge when the rain started, but about 10 casino opponents stuck it out and continued protesting through the torrential downpour.
About an hour after the rally ended, Gonzalez posted on the Facebook group that there will be another event at 5:30 p.m. today that will begin near the Amsterdam Riverfront Center.
Until the threatening clouds opened and the rain fell, Peter Vroman, a Republican who is challenging incumbent Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, in the 111th Assembly District this fall, waved a sign that read YE$ CASINO.
“A casino could really help this region and would be a step in the right direction,” said the Canajoharie resident. “I hope the Gaming Commission chooses the Montgomery County proposal.”