The Capital District OTB and a Rochester developer are looking to establish a $300 million casino and resort off Thruway Exit 23.
The proposal includes a 63,000-square-foot casino, 275-room resort-style hotel and 40,000-square-foot indoor water park. The site is one of many proposed for a full-scale casino in the Capital Region.
“Our plan not only represents the most transformative development Albany has seen in more than 40 years, it’s something all residents of Albany and the Capital Region can be proud of,” said David Flaum, chairman and CEO of Rochester-based Flaum Management. “We know local support is critical to a successful bid, and we are going to earn that support.”
Flaum and John Signor, president of the Capital District OTB, pitched the plan to Albany’s Common Council in a meeting on Friday. They are asking the council to vote on a resolution supporting the proposal. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said she will recommend the resolution to the council.
Placing their bets
A look at proposed casino sites in the Capital Region:
• Former Tobin First Prize meat packing plant in Albany
60 acres on Noonan Lane in Albany (proposal abandoned).
• 24-acre riverfront development at DeLaet’s Landing in Rensselaer.
• 60 acres of riverfront land at Galesi Group’s ALCO site in Schenectady.
• 520 acres of farmland in the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam in Montgomery County.
• 330-acre section of Howe Caverns in Schoharie County.
• Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in the towns of Wilton and Moreau in Saratoga County.
• Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs.
“I think this site, from an impact standpoint, is the most compelling because it is right off the highway,” Sheehan said. “I also think this is a site that potentially impacts most people in our region.”
Flaum and Signor touted the location on Noonan Lane as having easy access to the Thruway and being out of the way from other local venues.
The project is expected to create 1,800 permanent jobs, with an average salary of $40,000, and 1,500 construction jobs. The site would also have a parking garage with more than 750 spaces and 975 surface spots.
“Helping make the city of Albany and the Capital Region a destination with a vibrant economy with good-paying jobs has been a goal of mine since becoming president of Capital OTB,” Signor said. “I look forward to continuing that work with this one-of-a-kind plan.”
Flaum’s partnership with the Capital District Off-Track Betting Corp. is expected to benefit neighboring areas with profits spread among other counties including Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie.
The plan does not include a concert facility or entertainment venue, so it would not compete with the Times Union Center or the Palace Theater in downtown Albany, Flaum said.
He said the project would complement the Albany convention center, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved in December. Construction of the 82,000-square-foot Albany Capital Center is expected to start this summer and take about two years to complete.
“As a complement to what we are trying to accomplish downtown, that is certainly an important consideration,” Sheehan said. “Another consideration is the 1,800 permanent jobs and creating good jobs for our residents.”
As part of the casino development project, Flaum also plans to establish a $2 million Albany community-benefits fund. Grants would be provided for homeowners, schools and local businesses.
“We are committed to working with all interested parties to make this a project the entire community will embrace,” Flaum said. “We will contract with local businesses and vendors, and we will work with religious and civic leaders and law enforcement to maintain safe streets.”
The proposed 60-acre site, called “Project E23,” includes five houses, three currently occupied by the Noonan family who are relatives of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. The developer would take over the property and a contract is “essentially done.”
Flaum previously targeted the former Tobin First Prize meat packing plant off Central Avenue in Albany for a casino, but the site did not receive support from local residents or officials.
“I was skeptical of the Tobin site because of its size,” Sheehan said. “I really questioned what you would be able to build on that sight with the sloping and the wetlands. Plus, it was close to a residential neighborhood and would have added traffic. I thought that site was very problematic.”
The state will allow four full-scale casinos in the Capital Region, Catskills and Southern Tier by next year. Casino licenses will be awarded competitively, with sites considered based on location, potential for economic growth and local support.
The state is expected to put out a proposal to receive bids for casino sites by the end of the month. If awarded a casino license, Flaum plans to finish construction by mid-2015. Flaum has not yet teamed with a casino operator but has “been getting a lot of phone calls.”
“This is a process and we are just at the very beginning stages,” Sheehan said. “But we will be insisting on the project and the developer will be engaging with the city.”