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Study of gambling casino in Lake George endorsed by village leaders

Lake George Mayor Robert Blais (left rear) advises the village Board Monday Dec. 19 to bankroll a study of the potential impact of a gambling casino located either in Lake George or in Saratoga Springs. He said such a study was vital in providing information to the public on the pros and cons of local casinos, since legislation is now under serious consideration that would bring a proposal to legalize casinos  outside Native American reservations up for a public vote.

Lake George Mayor Robert Blais (left rear) advises the village Board Monday Dec. 19 to bankroll a study of the potential impact of a gambling casino located either in Lake George or in Saratoga Springs. He said such a study was vital in providing information to the public on the pros and cons of local casinos, since legislation is now under serious consideration that would bring a proposal to legalize casinos outside Native American reservations up for a public vote. Photo by Thom Randall.

— Lake George will likely soon be eyed as a potential site for a gambling casino, and area citizens should be informed of how such a development could effect the quality of life here, Mayor Blais told village trustees Monday Dec. 19.

Hearing Blais’ advice, the Lake George Village Board voted to earmark $5,000 for a study of how a casino in Lake George Village would impact the region.

Such considerations as employment opportunities, impact on tourism, local family life, sales tax revenue, plus environmental and infrastructure concerns, are likely to be weighed in such a study, village officials said.

Blais said that he would expect the town of Lake George to contribute $5,000 and Warren County also to chip in $10,000 for such a study — assuming the casino impact research would cost $20,000.

“Whether to have a casino here is one of the biggest decisions ever for Warren County, and it’s our responsibility to get all the information we can,” Blais said, predicting that the topic was bound to be controversial. “It’s going to be a very emotional issue.”

Nearly three weeks ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed to support a state constitutional amendment that will bring the idea of allowing casino gambling in New York State on land outside Native American reservations.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has said he supports legalizing at least one casino operation off Native American lands, while Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has only publicly said he supports allowing the state’s voters to decide the issue.

It is expected that a vote — the first of two required — on the state constitutional amendment will likely be held in 2012.

Predicted that legislation enabling a public referendum would succeed, Blais said Lake George or Saratoga would likely be considered prime candidates for a casino development.

Blais said a study conducted in 1996 prepared during the Pataki administration was comprehensive in its examination of impacts of a large-scale casino development, but while such information was useful, it needed to be updated and localized for Lake George.

Area residents need to know the potential impacts of a casino here, or one in Saratoga — particularly relating to local tourism and employment, Blais said.

“One way or another, we’re going to be in the mix,” he said. “We need to make people aware of the pros and cons.”

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