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March 29, 2014

In Our Opinion: Casino would make sense for Schoharie

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The Daily Star

---- — The 13-3 vote Friday by the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors to support developing a casino on land near Howe Caverns is intriguing, to say the least.

Representatives of the Howes Cave Development Corporation persuaded the board to reverse an earlier vote and allow the company to pursue one of four upstate casino licenses being granted by New York.

“Today is a great day for the people of Schoharie County,” said Chris Tague, spokesman for the Howes Cave Development Corporation. “… This brings our plan one step closer to reality and now allows us the opportunity to showcase our site in Schoharie County as the premiere location for a casino along with other total family entertainment and attractions.”

Emil Galasso, whose company owns Howe Caverns, said a 330-acre shovel-ready site makes it the most appealing contender in the region. In 2000, Galasso pursued the idea of a hotel and dinosaur theme park but did not follow through on the plan. He has said that if the casino were to be approved, he would sell or lease the land rather than have it aligned with the cavern attraction.

It would appear now that the task ahead of the Howes Cave group is to persuade the decision-makers who may not know Howe Caverns from — well — a hole in the ground that the Schoharie County site would be better than its competition.

Under a state constitutional amendment passed last year that ended New York’s prohibition of casinos, Schoharie County is considered part of “Region 2” in competition for a casino with Montgomery, Fulton, Schenectady, Albany, Rensselaer, Washington and Saratoga counties.

Tague’s pitch that Howe Caverns can be easily reached from Cooperstown, Oneonta and Albany makes us recall our editorial sentiments in May that the Oneonta area would be ideal for a casino, given its central location to Binghamton and Utica in addition to Albany and Cooperstown.

But since gambling in the Oneonta area is not — shall we say — in the cards, then Howe Caverns would seem quite feasible. Water testing, traffic counts and archaeological studies have already taken place, and Howe Caverns has also recently partnered with Schoharie County on a $9 million water and sewer upgrade project.

Tague said the corporation has “reached out to over 16 casino developers and are currently having serious conversations with more people every day.”

There is time later on to debate the pros and cons of casinos. What we do know is that Schoharie County is still recovering from the devastating floods of 2011, and could certainly use a boost to its economy.

We say there’s no harm in rolling the dice and seeing what happens.