Montgomery County

Montgomery County ‘still in race’ for casino

Though state gaming officials denied requests to amend the casino application guidelines, the develo

Though state gaming officials denied requests to amend the casino application guidelines, the development team behind a proposed Montgomery County casino resort will move forward with its plans, County Executive Matt Ossenfort said.

Originally, the would-be casino developer and operator, Clairvest Group Inc. and Great Canadian Gaming Corp., wanted a $25 million reduction in the casino licensing fee and a 60-day extension on the application deadline.

Mongtomery County officials met with the state Gaming Commission’s casino siting board on behalf of the developer and operator last Thursday to discuss the proposed amendments. They said they were asking for the amendments because the economic woes and small population in Montgomery County meant they could not initially afford the licensing fee.

Ossenfort said that Montgomery County should be treated like a less-populated region of the state. For example, a casino license in Tompkins or Broome County is $35 million.

But, to “make the state whole” in the long run, the casino developer and operator had stated plans to pay an increased tax rate on slot machines.

They also thought the June 30 deadline was too soon and did not give applicants enough time to submit the best possible application.

The siting board denied their requests the following day.

In an email, board spokeman Lee Park wrote: “It is simply not feasible or fair to alter any provision of the RFA [request for application] or make concessions at the request of a bidder. To do so would create an unfair bidding process for every other potential bidder and invalidate the RFA.

“While we cannot honor any applicant’s request to make concessions or alterations to the RFA, we do encourage all applicants to move forward with their bids and put their best plans forward,” he continued.”

The proposed casino would sit on 512 acres of land that straddles the town of Florida and the city of Amsterdam. The developers attended meetings last week where both local legislative bodies approved resolutions in favor of the casino.

“I think they saw how much support this project has in the first two meetings and they want to help this county,” Ossenfort said. “I am really happy for the residents of this county that we are still in the race.”

The casino application guidelines state that local support is a prerequisite to the application being considered by the siting board.

During the meetings, Ossenfort cited statistics that showed Montgomery County has a 7 percent unemployment rate and a 19 percent poverty rate. The developers promise the casino will create 450 construction jobs and 850 permanent jobs with an average annual salary of $42,000 per year.

Following the decision, Ossenfort said he is not worried that the siting board will look down on the proposal because they asked for the concessions.

“The siting board should look at all the positives of a casino in this county,” he said.

The proposed $250 million three-phase project would include a casino, hotel, two golf courses, 200 residential units and a farmers market.

Five bids for casino licenses have materialized in the Capital Region, stretching from East Greenbush to Cobleskill.

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