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NYSNYS NEWS: Lago casino opponents rally in Albany, saying Finger Lakes casino will harm competitors and eliminate jobs.
NYSNYS NEWS: Lago casino opponents rally in Albany, saying Finger Lakes casino will harm competitors and eliminate jobs.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 17) — Opponents of the Lago gambling casino project in central New York rallied here Tuesday, warning that jobs at nearby gambling operations will be eliminated if Lago moves forward as planned.

They cited projections of a loss to the state of $105 million in gambling revenues by existing facilities as well as the loss of 2,500 jobs tied directly and indirectly to existing businesses that would compete with Lago. They called upon the state Gaming Commission to reject Lago’s application for a operating license despite the recommendation of a screening panel put together by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) said the intent of the law legalizing commercial casinos upstate was “to create new jobs, not to shift jobs from one community to another. What’s happening under this Lago proposal is you are going to see jobs from Oneida County, from Genesee County, from the Finger Lakes region shifted to this new casino because it is going to cannibalize the existing facilities that are already in upstate New York.”

“The establishment of a casino in Seneca County would not be a case of friendly competition, it would be a direct and deliberate drain on a struggling economy less than an hour down the road,” said Rome Area Chamber of Commerce President William Guglielmo. “Economic development efforts should diversify and strengthen upstate New York, not pit one region against another.

“The location board vowed to avoid cannibalization of its existing gaming locations and other businesses in its decision,” said Steve Martin of Delaware North Companies Inc., which through a subsidiary owns Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack. “It ruled out Orange County (for a casino) on that premise. There is no justification for choosing Lago Casino.”

Lago spokesman Steve Greenberg dismissed the warnings and “phony protests” orchestrated by the Oneida Indian Nation, which operates Turning Stone Casino near Rome, and Finger Lakes Gaming.

“Delaware North and the Oneidas can stage phony protests with people on their payroll and paid ‘volunteers,’ trying to protect their monopolies,” he said. “They can run ads with false claims. They can advocate for changing the established rules in midstream from an honest, independent process to one that they feel they can control with political connections.  It’s all sad, selfish and cynical but it won’t work.”
“While the Oneidas and Delaware North resort to their phony campaign, our focus remains clear: build the best resort and casino in all of Upstate,” he said. “This week we begin laying the foundation for that both literally and figuratively.  Lago will create 1,800 construction and then 1,800 new permanent jobs and increase tourism, creating real economic opportunity for the people of the Finger Lakes Region.”
“Lago will also generate money for Seneca County and local governments throughout the state’s Gaming Region 5. These are county and local governments that currently don’t get a penny from the Oneidas because they are not part of the Oneidas’ 10-county exclusivity zone. Nor do they get any money from Delaware North’s Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack.”

The Gaming Facilities Location Board announced last year the selection of Montreign Resort Casino on the Catkills, Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, and Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre. At Cuomo’s direction, the board reopened the process this year and in October picked a fourth casino site, Tioga Downs Casino, Racing & Entertainment on the Pennsylvania border.

The state Gaming Commission has not yet awarded any of the licenses. The delay has been blamed on government red tape and background checks. The Lago project has also faces legal challenges.

One of the owners of Vernon Downs Casino and Hotel, another central New York gambling operation, issued a statement Tuesday backing Lago.

The Oneidas “did not care about the impact on any gaming or racing establishments when it opened Turning Stone and it continues to act as it pleases without any regulation,” Gary Greenberg said. “Vernon Downs has lost $1,824,196 million in profits since June's opening of
Yellow Brick Road,” another Oneida casino.

”Ray Halbritter and Oneida Nation are being hypocrites for demanding that NYS does not
allow any casinos to be near them after all the financial damage OIN has done to longtime gaming & racing establishments when TS opened,” he said.