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Montgomery County Officials Hopeful For Casino

Christopher Chappelear

Officials in the Mohawk Valley are enthusiastic about a new casino proposal close to home, but the project could be at a disadvantage with other projects on the table vying for the Capital Region casino license. 

On Monday, the Montgomery County town of Florida voted unanimously on a resolution in support of a casino proposal to be located off I-90’s Exit 27 on a parcel overlooking the city of Amsterdam. The $250 million project is being proposed by Canadian developers Clairvest Group Inc., and Great Canadian Gaming Corp. They’re proposing a gaming facility that would also feature a 100-room hotel, as well as dining and entertainment options.

Now that the details have been presented to the public and the town board, Florida supervisor Eric Mead said he feels “one hundred times better” about siting a casino in his community.

“There was no opposition to this, no picketing against casinos. Everybody was in favor and we had full board support. It was one hundred percent across the board. Now I feel a hundred times better, like I said, than I ever have,” Mead said.

Mead said Florida stands alone among communities considering welcoming a casino with a low-level of resident opposition.

On Tuesday night, the Amsterdam Common Council voted 4-1 in favor of the project that officials are saying could bring jobs to an economically depressed region.

Amsterdam Mayor Anne Thane recently spoke in favor of casino development in her city.

“For the city, the jobs and neighborhood revitalization, and downtown rehabilitation, and a vibrant waterfront combined with the casino amenities really would make Amsterdam a destination rather than a pass-through on the Thruway.”

On June 24th, the Montgomery County legislature will take a turn voting on the proposal. County Executive Matt Ossenfort believes the project will get the support it needs, and said Montgomery County is unique in its position among the other counties in the Capital Region.

“We really have some very strong support here in the community for what we’re trying to do and I think that speaks volumes about, number one, the project itself and the team we’ve put together, but also the need in this community. When you talk about 19 percent poverty rates, 31 percent of children living in poverty – that’s almost one of out of every three children living below the poverty line – we are certainly an area that could use a boost,” said Ossenfort.

However, Montgomery County officials and the developers are asking that the New York State Gaming Commission approve their a request to halve the license application fee from $50 million to $25 million, and a 60-day extension of the state’s June 30th deadline.

Ossenfort said he is working with the involved communities and developers now to draft the letter, as time grows short.

“It’s often perceived as we do not want to pay the $50 million licensing fee, and really what it is is more  of a deferment. By reducing the licensing fee from $50 to $25 million you’re reducing that upfront costs which makes this project viable, but the state would recoup every penny of that fee reduction over a period of tiem through an increased percentatge of the gaming revenue,” said Ossenfort.

Ossenfort said he wants to make sure the state is made whole, but the $50 million licenseing fee is a barrier to Montgomery County, as compared with other counties in the Capital Region.

Elsewhere in the region, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors voted to show its own support for a casino project in East Greenbush in Rennselaer County, a project as part of a partnership between the Saratoga Casino and Raceway and Churchill Downs.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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