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April 26, 2014

Cobleskill board backs Howe Caverns casino

By Joe Mahoney Staff writer
The Daily Star

---- — A casino plan for the Howe Caverns tourist attraction site in Schoharie County took another step forward Friday when it gained the unanimous endorsement of the Cobleskill town board.

While some gaming hall proposals elsewhere in New York have triggered furious public debates, the Howe Caverns proposal promoted by the chief executive officer of Howe Caverns Development Corp., Emil Galasso, received a warm welcome from Cobleskill town officials. Howe Caverns is located within the town of Cobleskill, close to Exit 22 of Interstate 88.

The adoption of the Cobleskill resolution is one of the steps needed to fulfill the application protocol required by state officials overseeing the issuance of four casino licenses later this year. Only one of those licenses is expected to go to a Capital Region site. The Howe Caverns proposal is competing with ones from Albany, Rensselaer, Montgomery and Schenectady counties.

“We have overwhelming public support to bring a casino to Schoharie County,” Galasso said in a statement. “We have received the support of the county board, key officials who have addressed safety and traffic concerns and now the support of the Cobleskill Town Board.”

Galasso wired a $1 million application fee to state officials Wednesday, ensuring the Howe Caverns proposal will have a seat at the table when all the applications are evaluated by the state Gaming Facility Location Board.

“Our proposal is consistent with the Governor’s stated goals to target areas in need and build destination resorts in communities that express local support,” Galasso said. “I think it is becoming clearer each day that Howe Caverns is the best site with least obstacles for the quick, successful development of a casino.”

The project in Albany County, on property controlled by the family of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has raised concerns from officials in the neighboring town of Bethlehem, where traffic congestion on local roads has already been an issue.

Meanwhile, veteran lobbyist James Featherstonhaugh, who with a partner already has a state license to run the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, is now angling for casino licenses in the Rensselaer County town of East Greenbush as well as in the Orange County city of Newburgh.

Featherstonhaugh’s Orange County proposal is in competition with ones proposed for economically depressed sections of the Catskills.

Galasso said his Howe Caverns site is ready for immediate construction and development as it already has completed traffic, geological and environmental studies. Howe Caverns, he said, is New York’s second most popular natural attraction, trailing only Niagara Falls.

“With over 330 acres of shovel ready land, a new water and sewer project near completion, a connection of Interstate and State Highways, and the close proximity to several metropolitan areas, Howe Caverns is the perfect site,” he said.