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Public to have its say on casinos

Public to have its say on casinos

Supporters and opponents of proposed casinos in the Capital Region are planning their schedules arou
Public to have its say on casinos
Galesi Group COO, David Buicko walks the north end grounds parallel to the Mohawk River at the former ALCO site in Schenectady on Wednesday afternoon. The Galesi Group and Rush Street Gaming of Chicago are partnering with plans to build the full-scale ...
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Casino public hearing

WHEN: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Holiday Inn, Stonehenge Room A & D, 205 Wolf Road, Colonie

MORE INFO: Seating is first-come, first-served. Pre-registered speakers should arrive 15 minutes before scheduled time to check-in. Walk-in speakers can register on-site on a first-come, first-served basis.

Twelve hours. Hundreds of speakers. One topic.

Supporters and opponents of proposed casinos in the Capital Region are planning their schedules around a day-long public hearing Monday, hosted by the state Gaming Commission.

It’s a chance to speak directly to the Gaming Facility Location Board before the five members choose one and possibly two locations for a casino license next month. Developers are pitching sites in Cobleskill, East Greenbush, Rensselaer and Schenectady.

Casino hopefuls will be taking hits from opponents of the projects. Residents with Save East Greenbush will be out in force against a proposed casino in the town, and the union group Unite HERE will be speaking against Rush Street Gaming, the company pursuing a casino in Schenectady.

Meanwhile, backers of the four casinos have lined up supporters to speak on their behalf. Howe Caverns in Cobleskill is sending people to the hearing by the busload, and Rensselaer has lined up several local officials to tout Hard Rock’s casino proposal.

The hearing will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the first 25 minutes of each hour reserved for pre-registered speakers and the remaining 35 minutes of each hour will be available for on-site registration. Those slots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Each person will have five minutes to speak.

Here’s a sample of what to expect during the hearing at the Holiday Inn at 205 Wolf Road in Colonie.

• The group Save East Greenbush has its attorney Jeff Meyer scheduled to speak at 8:05 a.m., kicking off the hearing. Local resident and group member Cara Benson also reserved a time slot at 1:20 p.m. Benson said 50 to 100 members of Save East Greenbush plan to attend throughout the day. They will come with signs and stickers that read “CasiNO” and will try to grab some of the coveted unreserved time slots.

Mary Buszuwski, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, will also be speaking against the proposed East Greenbush casino at 3 p.m. on behalf of Camp Is-Sho-Da, which sits adjacent to the prospective casino site on Thompson Hill.

• Members of the union group Unite HERE and employees at Rush Street Gaming’s casinos in Pennsylvania and Illinois will attend the hearing but did not reserve time to speak. The union, which represents 100,000 casino workers, says there are active and ongoing labor disputes at Rush Street’s three casinos and the company is blocking workers’ efforts to unionize.

Also speaking against the proposed Schenectady casino are some residents of the Stockade Historic District. David Giacalone is set to speak at 10 a.m., while Mohamed Hafez has a reserved slot at 6:15 p.m.

The Galesi Group and Rush Street Gaming, who are proposing the $330 million casino and hotel at the former Alco site off Erie Boulevard, lined up several local officials and residents who reserved spots to speak in support of the project. Chamber of Schenectady County President Chuck Steiner will talk at 8:15 a.m. and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy at 4:15 p.m. Other speakers include Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority; Jim Salengo, director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp.; and City Council members Leesa Perazzo and Ed Kosiur.

• Hard Rock is proposing a $280 million casino at de Laet’s Landing in the city of Rensselaer. The project’s biggest cheerleader, Mayor Dan Dwyer, reserved a 3:20 p.m. time slot to speak. Also scheduled to talk on behalf of the proposal is Pat Grattan, chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, and Ron Quartimon, president of the Capital District Black Chamber of Commerce.

Although Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan reached a revenue-sharing deal with the developers behind the proposed East Greenbush casino, Albany Common Council member Ron Bailey will also speak in support of the Rensselaer project.

• Officials at Howe Caverns, which is pursuing a casino license with Michigan developer Michael Malik and Full House Resorts of Las Vegas, will send hundreds of Schoharie County residents to the hearing in three buses throughout the day.

Some officials who plan to speak in favor of the project include state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, and Cobleskill town Supervisor Leo McAllister. Members of local fire departments and emergency medical services also plan to attend the hearing.

At 11 a.m., members of Schoharie County’s S’Cary Leg Runners will start a 38-mile run from Howe Caverns to the Holiday Inn, wearing Howe Caverns Resort and Casino shirts, and plan to arrive at the hotel around 4:30 p.m. A group of about 50 people on motorcycles will arrive at the hearing from Howe Caverns about 6 p.m.

All five members of the Gaming Facility Location Board will attend Monday’s hearing, according to Gaming Commission spokesman Lee Park. They will then travel to Poughkeepsie on Tuesday and Ithaca on Wednesday for hearings on casino proposals in the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier.

All three hearings will be streamed live and archived on the Gaming Commission’s website at www.gaming.ny.gov.

Written comments on the proposed casino projects can also be submitted at the event or by email to CapitalRegion@gaming.ny.gov up to seven days after the hearing.

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