The gold ring local and county officials hoped would pull the area out of dire fiscal straits was tossed down the drain Thursday night.
In a unanimous vote, the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board moved to disqualify a proposed casino in Montgomery County from contending for a casino license.
The board cited roughly 80 responses the development team, which included Clairvest Group Inc. and Great Canadian Gaming Corp., left blank on its application for a casino license as one reason for disqualifying the bid. In addition, the board said the applicant did not physically file the application the way it had specified, failing to provide enough copies of the required information.
Developers promised the $250 million project would create 450 construction jobs and 850 permanent jobs with an average salary of $42,000. They also said the project would generate $11.4 million annually in gaming taxes to be split between the city of Amsterdam, the town of Florida and Montgomery County.
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane attended the meeting in Manhattan and was granted permission to address the board. She read a statement in which she said the city and Montgomery County account for two of the most impoverished areas in the state. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Montgomery County has a 7 percent unemployment rate and a 19 percent poverty rate.
“This is the first glimmer of hope we have seen in decades,” Thane said. “This project could really help this region.”
Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort, who has been touting the benefits of a casino in the area for months, has said it would increase property values, decrease property taxes and create employment opportunities.
In June, the Amsterdam Common Council and Florida Town Board approved resolutions supporting a casino that would straddle both communities and sit near Exit 27 of the Thruway. During the meetings, not one person spoke out in opposition to the casino proposal, but over the last month, naysayers have organized rallies in Amsterdam speaking to the disadvantages of siting a casino in the area.
Before and after filing the application on June 30, Clairvest and Great Canadian Gaming sought a 60-day extension to complete the application and a reduction in the licensing fee, from $50 million to $25 million. Jeff Parr, chief executive officer of Clairvest, said a casino in Montgomery County would not be able to generate the same amount of revenue a gambling hall in East Greenbush or Rensselaer — two other communities competing for a casino in the Capital Region — would.
“We were asking to be treated like a casino in Tioga or Broome County, where a license is only $35 million,” he said.
On June 20, the development team sent a letter to the siting board stating their requested concessions. A few days later, the siting board issued a statement saying, “it is simply not feasible to alter any provision of the RFA [request for application] or make concessions at the request of a bidder.”
Board members echoed those sentiments Thursday, saying every applicant must abide by the rules.
The board will authorize four casinos among the Capital Region, Southern Tier and Hudson Valley sometime in the fall.