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Consensus: Albany casino not worth the gamble

Updated: 04/08/2014 9:23 AM
Created: 04/08/2014 12:02 AM WNYT.com
By: Dan Levy

ALBANY - If casino developers were banking on support for their $300 million plan, the odds may have gotten a little bit longer Monday night. Even though several speakers at the Albany Common Council public hearing love the idea of a casino in Albany, many more were dead set against it.

On one side of the coin, a gambling casino would be a game changing savior for the economically depressed region.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to raise money for the city and lower property taxes and give people relief," said David Polen, an Albany resident.

On the other side, it's an affront to economic and social justice.

"Trust me, we have plenty of addiction and we don't need anything that would lend itself to trapping more and more of our citizens in addictions," said Dr. Robert Paeglow, medical director at two addiction centers in Albany. "A disproportionate amount of money that goes through a casino and ultimately goes into the tax coffers of what ever municipality comes from poor people."

Marsha Nadell-Penrose has been an addiction counselor for forty years.

"I have seen the devastation that addiction for gambling and drugs can bring, not just to an individual, but to their family and to a city," she says, "I would ask you ( common council members) to please not be tempted by the shiny apple or an easy fix. I know the city needs money, but I don't believe this is the way to do it."

The majority of speakers at Monday night's public hearing in Albany opposed the idea of building a $300 million casino adjacent to Thruway exit 23. Some people objected more passionately than others.

"I believe it is unethical and immoral," says Helen Klaeysen, of Albany, "It's also not sustainable or socially equitable to raise money by luring people who have risked their rent and grocery money pursuing the delusion that they'll have a reasonable chance to improve their economic circumstances."

Meanwhile, Marlon Anderson, a former Albany mayoral candidate, says he believes a casino would do for Albany what Global Foundries has done for Malta.

"What shouldn't we get the state assistance that a casino would provide?" Anderson asks.

In the coming weeks council members will continue gathering input and information. Alderman Joseph Igoe says he's still undecided and wishes he had more time in which to gather facts and make up his mind.

"We'd rather have gotten the golden apple from New York State," Igoe says, "but we aren't getting that and I think we have to start looking elsewhere."

There will be several more opportunities for the public to weigh-in on the Albany site proposal. The common council is expected to vote in early May, a vote that is essentially do-or-die proposition for the state panel granting casino sites.

Five other area communities are also vying for a casino. Among them: Amsterdam, Rensselaer, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, and Schoharie.

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