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NY1 takes a look at the state's plan to expand casino gambling.

Rolling the Dice: Casino Push Creates Fight in Small Towns Upstate

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In the latest installment of the "Rolling the Dice" series, Nick Reisman of Time Warner Cable News in Albany looks at how the push has created a fight in some small towns just 150 miles north of New York City.

ALBANY - What was once a statewide debate on expanding casino gambling in New York has become more than a dozen different local debates, and one of them is being held in the shadow of the state's capital city.

"We're very excited that Churchill Downs Incorporated will be partnering with Saratoga Casino and Raceway in that bid," said Rita Cox, vice president for marketing at Saratoga Casino and Raceway.

There are 17 casino proposals for the Albany area, the Hudson Valley and in the Southern Tier. In East Greenbush, a suburb of Albany of 16,000 people on the other side of the Hudson River, local officials there are subject to an intense effort to build support for a casino.

"Well, if you're a small town, then a little money can go a long way," said Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

While lobbyists at the state level have to report how much money they're spending to influence government, entities that are lobbying local governments less than 50,000 people don't have to disclose.

"I think in this day and age, there are so many issues at the local level, like fracking and casinos, that we really need to start seeing better sunlight on what's going on there," Mahoney said.

Saratoga Casino and Raceway had initially sought to expand its existing racino in Saratoga Springs, but that proposal was rebuffed by local officials. Now, the developers are finding different ways to generate interest, such as holding a job fair for a casino that is yet to be built, much less approved.

"It's still good to know what's out here and what opportunities out there to offer with them being in my trade," said Lateefah Digsay, a Bronx resident.

Despite some concerns raised by community members, the East Greenbush Town Board this week advanced the casino proposal to the planning board.

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