Casino panel holds hearing on proposals for casinos in Catskills, mid-Hudson Valley

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POUGHKEEPSIE, New York — Catskill region residents who see casinos as an economic lifeline and local opponents sounded off Tuesday before the panel that will decide where new upstate New York casinos will be located.

The Gaming Facility Location Board held a 12-hour public comment session in Poughkeepsie to give people a chance to directly address board members on proposals to build casinos in the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley. The board, which could grant up to four licenses around upstate New York, is expected to start making decisions this fall.

"You probably know the casino carrot has been dangled in front of us for over 40 years," said Sullivan County resident Tom Wasserman, who described his home county as needing a shot in the arm economically.

"We want them, we need them and we deserve them," he said.

Support for a casino is strong in Sullivan County — the heart of the faded, old Borscht Belt. There is concern in the largely rural area that competing casino proposals in neighboring Orange County, which is closer to the massive New York City market, would siphon away gamblers.

But Judy Kennedy, mayor of the struggling Orange County city of Newburgh, said the economic impact of a casino would be greatest there, given the large number of low-income residents.

"There is no place else in this region that needs it like this city does," she said.

The board held a similar meeting Monday in the Albany area to focus on casino proposals in the Capital Region. A meeting planned for Wednesday in Ithaca is dedicated to proposed gambling facilities in the Finger Lakes-Southern Tier region.

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