But Matthew Lamia of Richmondville, who identified himself as a retired addiction counselor, said a casino would invite new problems in a county already struggling with inadequate resources to deal with a growing drug addiction problem. Lamia argued opening a casino in the county would prey on compulsive gamblers and further strain the mental illness safety net.
“Are we going to cash in on the vices or are we going to do something to help the county?” he asked.
Not present at the meeting was the man behind the push for the Howe Caverns site, Emil Galasso, president of both Howe Caves LLC and Cobleskill Stone Products.
One critic of the proposal, Bruce Stacey, accused the county board of being willing to roll the dice on a project that he contended would bring no benefits to local residents.
“This casino is going to a private family and everyone knows it,” Stacey said. “What are you going to do for us?”
Last November, when voters statewide were asked in a ballot question whether they approved legalizing casino gaming, Schoharie County was narrowly divided, with a slim 51 majority approving the proposed change in the state Constitution, while 49 percent were opposed.
Tague, in an interview, called the Schoharie proposal a top contender for the casino license that would be issued for a region encompassing the Capital Region.
“We know we have the best site,” he said. “There’s no question about it.”
Galasso has been in discussions with several gaming companies interested in partnering on the Howe Cavern site, he said.
Tague noted Howe Caverns has a new water and sewer system that would help attract a developer.
The state is charging $1 million to file an application for a casino license. Once a state location board picks the site for the Capital Region, it will cost $50 million to obtain the actual license.