- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) - Dozens of residents, business owners and local leaders from New York’s Southern Tier and Finger Lakes spoke out Wednesday about how a casino in their communities could help reverse decades of economic decline.

Supporters of at least one of three competing proposals - and a smaller number of critics of expanded gambling - attended a daylong public hearing on plans to open casinos in the region. It was the third and final day for the state Gaming Facility Location Board to receive public input on proposed gambling facilities in upstate New York.

State officials are authorized to award up to four casino licenses among three regions: the Finger Lakes/Southern Tier, the Capital Region and the Catskills/Hudson Valley.

The Southern Tier/Finger Lakes region attracted proposals from Tioga Downs in Nichols in the Southern Tier, Traditions in Johnson City near Binghamton and Lago in Tyre in Seneca County.

Each project had its share of supporters Wednesday, including local mayors, business owners and residents.

“I’m going to bed at night dreaming of buses coming to Seneca County instead of Niagara Falls,” said Linda Knight, who manages a hotel about five miles from the proposed site of the Lago in the Finger Lakes region.

Lesley Pelotte, mayor of the village of Nichols, said a casino at Tioga Downs would mean jobs - and maybe new residents for her community’s vacant homes.

Critics of the projects warned of gambling addiction, changes to their rural way of life and increased traffic.

Traditions supporter Vincent Palmeri said a casino’s economic benefit would outweigh the drawbacks.

“I will happily deal with a few more cars daily,” he said.

Separate hearings were held in the Albany area Monday for the Capital Region and in Poughkeepsie on Tuesday for the Catskills/Hudson Valley region.

The board is expected to announce its recommendations later this fall.

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