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Lake Geo. citizens debate casinos: a windfall or curse?

At a public forum April 30 on the pros and cons of hosting a gambling casino in Lake George, local resident Joanne Gavin calls for collaboration to solve economic problems in Lake George, rather than lobbying the state for a casino — without appropriate research.  About 240 people attended the forum, held in the Fort William Henry Conference Center.

At a public forum April 30 on the pros and cons of hosting a gambling casino in Lake George, local resident Joanne Gavin calls for collaboration to solve economic problems in Lake George, rather than lobbying the state for a casino — without appropriate research. About 240 people attended the forum, held in the Fort William Henry Conference Center. Photo by Thom Randall.

— Whether hosting a gambling casino would boost local prosperity in Warren County or spoil the local quality of life was debated with passion Monday as about 240 area residents spoke their minds at a public forum held at Fort William Henry Conference Center.

The session, sponsored by the Lake George Village Board, started with presentations from Attorney Michael Garry of Albany and Robert Sturges, an attorney who has served as an executive of Nevada Gold Casinos — decades after he was a deputy Attorney General in New Jersey that fought organized crime involved in casino operations.

Sturges talked of substantial positive economic benefits that municipalities reap when they host casinos.

Garry detailed the status of the legislation and court challenges that are likely to accompany New York State’s venture into hosting up to nine casinos.

Sturges said that a casino in Warren County would dramatically increase tourism, and that event planners preferred to host business conventions where casinos were located. He continued that casinos routinely employ 2,000 people and generate $300 million annually — as well as generate about 1,800 additional jobs in the community and another $150 million in spin-off economic activity locally.

“A casino would be a huge magnet for visitors, and everyone would benefit,” he said.

Sturges predicted that a casino would boost the fortunes of nearby businesses, citing surveys that show casino visitors routinely eat or shop outside the casino complex.

After the presentation, a number of residents objected to the village leaders not offering a balance of professional opinions on the issue, as they were hosting two advocates for casinos, yet no one speaking about the potential negative aspects of hosting gambling.

“We’re being sold a bill of goods — there are no anti-casino representatives here,” Zach Richards said, looking at the village board.

Resident Bonnie Colomb challenged Sturges’ optimism over hosting a casino.

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