I'm not sure what your thoughts are on the idea of a casino in our back yard but as for me the idea of bells ringing with twirling lights sounds pretty good. Could this be our ace in the hole? Here we are living in a county looking for an economic boost when suddenly in the news bells and lights go off on the idea of promoting a particular area in Montgomery County as being a viable place to operate a casino. Of course as with bells and lights in a casino come an association or label if you will as being something not so good. Even in a place like Saratoga where gambling attractions have existed for quite some time the idea of a casino remains lukewarm and with resistance.
For some reason there appears to be a strong opposition coming from a specific group of citizens in Saratoga claiming a casino could have a negative impact on the area. A group called Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion (SAVE) crowded the council chambers in Saratoga recently expressing displeasure of a casino being built in their area. Maybe it also has to do with the fact that Saratoga is already a thriving year-round community and not in desperate need of development as with so many upstate communities are experiencing. Meanwhile Saratoga Casino and Raceway is still planning on a $30 million expansion that includes a five-story, 120-room hotel along with an event space. There also remains a large group of citizens supporting the idea that gambling would bring jobs to the region.
So here comes Montgomery County and the city of Amsterdam showing what we have to offer -- land, location and water. It's sort of nice to see that the idea of a casino is gathering support from both a city and county level. I think for the most part we are seeing it as being beneficial. However, as with any idea comes a difference in opinion. Questions remain for some as to whether or not it will be worth the effort. For those unsure maybe a little research should be done before calling "no dice" with regards to a casino. It's time to clear the air and lay all the cards on the table. Our elected officials shouldn't sit back having a poker face while watching others present their case. Instead they need to push our product and not miss this window of opportunity on a casino.
Gambling has been around throughout the ages and almost as long as mankind. To be honest, folks trying to identify a place or time when gambling first started is pretty much impossible. I did find that many of the popular games played today in casinos originated in Europe and China. Gambling has also been associated with religious groups which see it somewhat differently. For example the Catholic Church holds the position "that there is no moral impediment to gambling, so long as it is fair, all bettors have a reasonable chance of winning, there is no fraud involved, and the parties involved do not have actual knowledge of the outcome of the bet." Many religious perspectives have been mixed but the church halls continue to remain open for bingo. One thing I do know is that gambling has been here for a very long time and odds are this recreational activity will continue to remain here.
If you think about it for a moment the word "gamble" is something we do quite often. Have you ever taken a risk in doing something while hoping (but not sure) it will turn out for the best? One might also refer to this situation as being a "risk taker." However way you see it the bottom line is gambling is a part of our society. Whether you like gambling or not is your own personal decision but I would hope that reasons not wanting a casino were made not on impulse but research.
Casinos have become a major industry in the United States growing tremendously over the past two decades. Nearly 30 states now have legalized casino gambling and are seeing it as a tool for economic growth. If you take a look at both our city and county we are seeing increased fiscal pressures along with a lagging population. Now add a casino to the mix and you sweeten the pot where local business conditions change such as an increase in retail sales, commercial and new housing construction along with restaurants. According to some statistics the presence of casinos has helped to stimulate growth through job creation. In Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi, 62 percent of the jobs created in the area were by casinos. In Shreveport/Bossier City, Louisiana, more than half of the new jobs in the region were created by the opening of casinos. In Joliet, Ill., unemployment showed a decrease. I guess if it takes an idea such as a casino for our elected officials to come together and work toward a common goal of job creation then I'd say a casino is not a bad thing.
Folks in all honesty to see a casino settle in Montgomery County is something of a longshot but certainly worth the gamble as many of us do every day with "a dollar and a dream."
Until next time -- hold that thought.
MIKE LAZAROU is an Amsterdam native
and a regular columnist. You may contact him