Here is another in our continuing series of events about things going on around Rochester.
On April 23, Howe Caverns, become the third possible venue for a new Upstate, NY casino when they paid the staggering $1 million application fee to the state. The underground tourist attraction is a far cry from the luxurious casinos that have been proposed, but the owner believes that local developers deserve the chance to help invest in the place they live and help promote economic growth.
“This is an economically depressed area – just what the law was designed for,” said Howe Caverns owner Emil Galasso, whose caves about an hour west of Albany attract 150,000 visitors a year. “We have 330 acres that are shovel-ready. We’re really a diamond in the rough.”
But Galasso is not the only local business owner with little casino experience trying to get involved and compete with more well-known casino brands. Wilmorite, which is based in Rochester, has plans for a $350 million casino in Tyre while the Walsh family, which owns Traditions at the Glen resort has a $150 million investment in mind for the Southern Tier.
“We know this community,” said Bill Walsh. “We have a great project that would really benefit the area.”
Of course, other companies with more experience running casinos have thrown their names into the hat as well. The owners of Saratoga Casino and Raceway have confirmed paying the application fee, as has Capital Gaming LLC., who proposed a casino on the outskirts of Albany.
In addition to improving tourism and just general upgrades, the main reason why both the state and local developers might want the casinos is to bring in new jobs. It could also help pay for state unemployment loans. In 2012, there were 20 states, including Arizona, Florida, New York, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Ohio who all defaulted. In NY, the influx of cash from the casinos could help prevent that from reoccurring.
Despite the challenges and competition, Galasso believes that his site is the perfect place for development.
“When the smoke clears we are confident that operators will recognize the tremendous potential of our shovel ready site, uniquely suited to be a destination location for families throughout the region,” he said.
Despite not having an agreement with a casino operator, he added, “We have overwhelming public support, we have the support of our county board and we have the support of key officials who have addressed safety and traffic concerns.”
Though gamers might be months, if not years, away from stepping foot into a new casino, both the state and developers are working hard now to try to find the right agreements.