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Potential casino location still up for grabs
HOWES CAVE -- When talk of legalizing casinos first came up in New York, it was almost understood that if one were to be built, it would go up in Saratoga County. But then, Rensselaer County leaders expressed interest, and it became anyone's game. Now another county could become home to one of two casinos to be built in the region. Whether it was a school field trip or a day trip Howe Caverns is a landmark you may have visited. If the owners' vision comes to fruition, though, it'll be just part of a much larger attraction.
"Schoharie county is a needy county," said William Gallop, manager of Howe Caverns. "We need some positive growth out here."
The attraction has long been 15 stories below ground off I-88. But that location could be perfect if Howe Caverns hits the jackpot on one of the casinos coming to the Capital Region.
"We're not looking to get rid of or change Howe Caverns at all," Gallop said. "We're merely offering up a portion of our 330 acres for a casino."
The application process to the state for casinos isn't yet clear. However, Howe caverns already has the approval to expand from the county for outdoor attractions, sans table games and slot machines.
"We have been in touch with several developers, we're waiting for call backs from some," Gallop said. "Some have left messages. One was very intrigued with the idea."
The Town of Cobleskill is one of the last stops on the highway between Schenectady and Oneonta, and Howe Caverns thinks that's the sweet spot -- despite talk of interest in a gaming center in nearby Montgomery County.
"Some people worry about crime with casinos," Gallop said "They have a lot of security, a lot of cameras, they're very well organized and very well run. I think a casino closer to a city will bring in more of that element."
Just as supporters of a Saratoga casino took the position that one there would not be "Vegas-style," but "Saratoga-style," a similar sentiment in Schoharie.
"They could actually make them look like Howe Caverns -- lower buildings, sprawled out, very pretty and fits in with our landscaping," Gallop said.
One of the biggest concerns for the business community has been that casinos might not play well with Main Street. Vijaya Luxmi has owned a shop in Cobleskill for years. "Even the traffic stopped when I-88 came in to the picture and the traffic stopped when Walmart came in to the picture because a lot of the mom and pop stores died," she said.
"A casino will bring money, there's no doubt," Luxmi said, "but it can also bring crime which we're not used to."Some neighbors say they'd appreciate the chance to take a chance closer to home. "I can see it," Agnes Furstman said. "I do like to play the slots. If it comes, it's fine with me."