It seems as if not everyone has gotten the memo that the governor is not involved in the casino selection process. Last week, it was reported that Republican Senator James Steward had written to Cuomo (copying in the location board) to advocate on behalf of Howe Caverns, referring to the casino law's intent of creating jobs and funding for schools.
“It is clear that no other site better fulfills these strict criteria, no other will another have a more profound regional impact, than the Howe Caverns Resort and Casino,” Seward wrote in the letter dated Nov. 14. “It is projected to deliver 20 percent more revenue to the Schoharie County budget, create 3,000 construction jobs and nearly 2,000 permanent positions.” [Capital New York]I've considered Howe Caverns to be an interesting longshot. Though its revenue projections come in below that of the other three Capital District applicants, it enjoys wide community support in a region that was devastated by Hurricane Irene. And, as Senator Steward also noted, it is located far enough from Saratoga to not pose much of a threat at all to the racino there. Remember that the state collects a higher tax rate on the existing VLT parlors than it will on casinos, so it's certainly in the state's interest to try and prevent cannibalization there.
As if that wasn't enough, Governor Cuomo received some additional reading material last week; this from two lawmakers supporting the Hard Rock casino in Rensselaer.
"We believe that opportunities for employment and tourism will extend to both sides of the river in Albany and Rensselaer Counties," the letter states. " ... Issues such as transportation, job training and employment are critical to our constituency and will be of utmost importance with regard to this project." [Albany Times Union]And why exactly was this letter addressed to the uninvolved Governor of New York?
"At the end of the day ... the members of the (Gaming) Commission are appointed by the Legislature, yes, but also by the governor," [Assemblyman John] McDonald [of Cohoes] said in an interview.Indeed. And the Gaming Commission, which ostensibly made the selections to the location board, happened to pick five gentleman who all have varying degrees of ties to Cuomo; two of them, in particular, held key posiitons on Cuomo's 2010 campaign team. So, you can't blame these legislators for sending their letters the governor's way.
Mentioned in the article about Rensselaer are a "flurry of rumors" regarding the Capital District license, which are apparently pointing towards Schenectady. I recently read a quote from Rennselaer mayor Dan Dwyer to that effect. If those rumors turn out to be true (and I can't really imagine where they'd be coming from), the license award would be going to Rush Street Gaming despite a concerted effort by the Unite HERE union to discredit the company on grounds of unfair and mean-spirited labor practices. And there has also been bad publicity regarding the company's involvement in gaming apps marketed to kids. (Rush Street is also involved with Saratoga harness in their Newburgh bid.) Should the location board select this project despite those concerns, you can expect the union to keep the heat on as the Gaming Commission considers the issue of the company's licensability.
We're told that the location board will indeed make their announcement at their next meeting, whenever that might be. I'll believe that when I see it. These guys have a lot to consider; that's an understatement to be sure. One thing that I'll repeat here.....and perhaps there's no need, because, hopefully, the location board members have, at some point, visited all of the proposed casino sites; though if they have, they must have done so quietly. If they haven't, then I don't see how they can be getting the whole picture. The trip that the Head Chef and I took up to Ellenville, home of the proposed Nevele casino, a couple of weeks ago really opened my eyes. It's one thing to read and hear about how the Catskills proponents are concerned about a casino in Orange County. It's another thing to take the trip up there and pass by, one by one, the signposts for towns with proposed casino sites off Route 17 on the way from NYC and the Catskills region.....and yes, that includes Newburgh, despite what Saratoga harness wants you to believe.
Similarly, I don't see how one can fully appreciate the concerns of the residents of East Greenbush that live near the proposed site there without seeing the surroundings for oneself, as I did; and I'm sure that goes for places like Tyre and Tuxedo as well. If the board is having trouble making a decision and/or coming to a consensus, then I'd recommend that they take a couple of days off from their day jobs and do their due diligence, if they haven't already done so. As they should have.