A rally in the city of Amsterdam Tuesday evening showed not all residents of the town of Florida are convinced a proposed casino near Thruway Exit 27 would help local businesses or revitalize the area.
Casino opponents voiced concerns about the long-term stability of a casino in Montgomery County and the effects it would have on the surrounding community. In addition, farmers from the town are worried the proposed casino resort, which would sit on farmland that straddles the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam would inflate the value of property in the area and in turn hurt their bottom line.
Roughly 50 casino opponents held signs that read “casiNO” and “Don’t Gamble Away Our Future” while standing at the intersection of routes 5 and 30, near the city’s Public Safety Building.
Meanwhile, a parade in support of the casino that was set to take place concurrently was postponed due to the rising temperatures and possible thunderstorms.
As the casino detractors waved their signs and drove farm vehicles, dozens of cars that passed by honked their horns and cheered in support.
The anti-casino demonstration was organized by People Against the Town of Florida Casino. The group has started a Facebook page that has gained nearly 250 likes.
Lori Rullison’s family has run a farm in the town of Florida for over 120 years. She says the casino is only a quick fix and would hurt small businesses in the area.
“When people visit a casino, they stay at the casino because it is a destination resort,” she said. “People are naive in thinking that casino visitors would patronize local businesses.”
Sarah Cornett, editor of the group's Facebook page, said the 512 acres the proposed casino would sit on surrounds property her family owns. That is why she initially joined the anti-casino movement, she said, but then she researched how casinos in other states affect neighboring communities.
She pointed to casinos that have sprung up in Pennsylvania, saying they have hurt the areas they operate in.
“A casino is not going to help this community,” Cornett said. “For every job a casino creates, one job is taken away from a local small business.”
“There is an oversaturation of gambling in this part of the country,” she continued. “How much more gambling do we need?”
Fransje Holloway, a Florida resident, acknowledged the area does need to be revitalized, but quickly added a casino is not the way to create positive change.
“Studies show that casinos are failing,” she said. “There is so much gambling already in the country. People need to realize that Amsterdam is not Las Vegas.”
A dairy farmer in Florida, Tim Seivers, believes if a casino is built in the town it will raise the value of land. He said many farmers rent a portion of the land they work on and an increase in rent would hurt their profit margin.
“Building a casino in the town will make it harder for farmers to get by,” he said.
The group of private citizens who organized the pro-casino event, dubbed Parade Destination 27, felt any severe weather could put participants in danger, so they put it off. The parade was supposed to run from the Tecler School parking lot to Shuttleworth Park, about a 11⁄2 mile walk.
Those who participated in the parade would have received free tickets to the Amsterdam Mohawks baseball game Tuesday night. The baseball game was not postponed.
“The extreme heat would make it potentially dangerous for people to be outside from 5 p.m. until the game ends at 10 p.m., with temperatures soaring into the low and mid-90s,” said Montgomery County spokesman Andrew Santilllo, who announced the decision to cancel the parade on behalf of the organizers.
On Monday, 17 casino applications were delivered to the state Gaming Commission office in Schenectady. The application for the proposed Amsterdam/Florida casino was among them.
The commission’s casino siting board is expected to award casino licenses sometime this fall.