Montgomery County

Florida Town Board backs casino proposal

The Florida Town Board unanimously passed a resolution in favor of a proposed $250 million casino re

The Florida Town Board unanimously passed a resolution in favor of a proposed $250 million casino resort Monday night after listening to a presentation by Clairvest Group Inc. and the Great Canadian Gaming Corp.

The three-phase project would include a casino, hotel, two 18-hole golf courses, a farmers market, an events center and up to 200 residential housing units. Clairvest owns and operates 22 gaming facilities in the United States, Canada and Chile.

The company’s chief executive officer, Jeff Parr, said the proposal could have a major positive fiscal impact on the region. However, he’s asking that the state Gaming Commission slash the casino licensing fee for a Capital Region casino from $50 million to $25 million. He said without the fee reduction, the “transformative project” can’t move forward.

Parr added that the casino will deliver $11.4 million annually in gaming taxes to the host communities. The town of Florida would receive $4.7 million per year, according to the group’s projections, which would match the town’s current property tax revenue. Parr is also asking the Gaming Commission for a 60-day extension because the companies had to reconfigure their plans to adjust to the spending requirements that were released on May 12. The deadline for the full casino applications is June 30.

Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort cited the region’s high poverty and unemployment rates, saying the county does not have the economics of Albany or Rensselaer and paying the full fee up front is not possible for the casino’s operators. He promised, however, that the casino would eventually make the state “whole” by paying a higher tax rate on slot machine games than any other potential Capital Region casino. The Gaming Commission stated a Capital Region casino would have to pay a 45 percent tax on slot-machine revenue. Ossenfort said the casino is willing to pay 48 percent in taxes.

“We need more opportunities here,” Ossenfort said. “We are a community in need of a boost.”

The operator of the proposed casino, Great Canadian Gaming Corp., owns and operates 17 casinos in Canada and Washington, which house around 5,500 slot machines and nearly 320 table games in total.

During the public-comment portion of the meeting, all speakers implored the board to support the casino, which would sit on around 500 acres of land and straddle the towns of Florida and the city of Amsterdam near Exit 27 of the Thruway. An overwhelming number of speakers said the area is in dire need of an economic boost and an employment generator.

Dan Wilson, a Florida town resident, said the casino is an outstanding opportunity and he is “100 percent for it.”

Leon Gray, a member of the Florida Town Planning Board, said the casino would produce many jobs and would be a “win-win for everybody involved.”

Mario Bruni, a town resident, exclaimed, “If you build it they will come.”

However, Councilman Ronald Phillips expressed concern that the projections outlined by Parr may never come to fruition, saying casino revenue throughout the country is down.

“Why will Montgomery County attract visitors?” he asked.

Parr responded that it is up to him and the other members of the project’s team to put forth a proposal that will bring casino-goers to the region.

Phillips also wanted to confirm that the project would look to employ town residents. Members of the development team said they have already been in contact with local construction businesses and will not look to import employment.

“Underemployment, unemployment are the biggest problems facing Montgomery County,” said Montgomery County Social Services Commissioner Michael McMahon. “This project will bring jobs.”

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