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What you need to know for 08/19/2017

Montgomery County officials back Cobleskill casino

Montgomery County officials back Cobleskill casino

The Montgomery County Legislature voted to support a proposed casino at Howe Caverns in Cobleskill a
Montgomery County officials back Cobleskill casino
A rendering of the proposed Howe Caverns Resort and Casino.

The Montgomery County Legislature voted to support a proposed casino at Howe Caverns in Cobleskill after backers of another project in Rensselaer sought to receive the endorsement.

County legislators passed a resolution Wednesday evening exclusively backing the Howe Caverns Resort and Casino, looking to the project as a way to partner on jobs and economic development.

“We’re not here holding checks out; the checks will manifest themselves if we get the project,” said Jeff Hyman, who is on the casino development team for Howe Caverns. “We want to be that incredibly transformative project, that beacon and that job generator for the local community.”

Full House Resorts of Las Vegas and Michigan casino developer Michael Malik are betting on a casino at Howe Caverns. The $450 million project includes a casino with up to 1,500 slot machines and 60 table games, two 250-room hotels, two water parks, restaurants and other amenities.

Cobleskill is in Schoharie County, which adjoins Montgomery County. Hyman said if Howe Caverns receives a casino license, developers would work with Montgomery County to offer jobs, educational funding and agricultural partnerships.

“Other than ourselves, you were always our second choice,” said Legislator Barbara Wheeler, R-District 7. “You are our neighboring county. I would like to partner, and I like that you’re hungry. I think we are stronger together than we would be apart.”

The project is expected to create 1,700 permanent jobs and 3,000 construction jobs. The casino is projected to generate $131 million in gross gaming revenues annually. Hyman said construction could begin within weeks of a license being granted.

During the county Legislature’s meeting last week, Capital District Off-Track Betting Corp. President John Signor presented Hard Rock’s plans for a $280 million casino and hotel at de Laet’s Landing in the city of Rensselaer. Capital OTB is a partner in the Hard Rock project, and Signor said Montgomery County would benefit if Rensselaer receives a casino license with increased revenue from OTB, which has a branch in the Amsterdam Riverfront Center.

OTB sent another representative Wednesday to speak about the Hard Rock project, but the legislators were not impressed with the proposal. Legislature Chairman Tom Quackenbush, R-District 2, said OTB revenue has been decreasing.

“We’ve had a partnership with OTB for such a long time, but I really like what I hear from Howe Caverns’ presentation,” he said. “I think OTB is a thing of the past. Howe Caverns is a good proposal for Montgomery County.”

This comes after Rensselaer Mayor Dan Dwyer’s unsuccessful attempt to gain exclusive support for the city’s project from the Albany Common Council. Dwyer was offering Albany $1 million a year for 10 years from Rensselaer’s projected casino revenue.

Instead, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan reached an agreement with developers proposing a casino in East Greenbush. Saratoga Harness Racing and Churchill Downs plan to give Capitalize Albany Corp., the economic development arm of the city, $1 million a year for 10 years and pledge to hire Albany residents at the casino.

Developers pitching the Capital View Casino and Resort in East Greenbush were not seeking Montgomery County’s support. Officials with the Galesi Group and Rush Street Gaming, proposing a casino in Schenectady, met Tuesday with Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort and Ken Rose, director of the Montgomery County Business Development Center, instead of attending the Legislature meeting Wednesday.

“There were no promises or offers, like you have seen down in Albany,” Rose said. “It was more of a general discussion about their plans. If awarded a casino license, they will have tremendous workforce needs. Schenectady residents will not just fill those jobs. We have a labor pool out here that would help meet those needs.”

Rose said the site pitched for a casino in Schenectady off Erie Boulevard would be a short distance for Montgomery County residents to travel for work. The casino is projected to generate about 1,200 jobs. Developers are also looking to partner with Amsterdam for infrastructure projects and Fulton-Montgomery Community College with tuition assistance, he said.

Before the Legislature’s meeting Wednesday, Rose said he believed endorsing a casino at this time is premature.

“I’m assuming Matt [Ossenfort] will talk with the legislators about the Schenectady casino project,” he said. “We hope they endorse a project after the presentations next week, if at all.”

On Monday, developers proposing casinos in Cobleskill, East Greenbush, Rensselaer and Schenectady will present their projects to the Gaming Facility Location Board and the public in Albany.

Clairvest Group Inc. and Great Canadian Gaming Corp. were proposing a casino on 512 acres of unused farmland in the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam. But developers were seeking concessions from the state, and the Gaming Commission disqualified their application as incomplete.

“We struggle with the same lack of identity,” Hyman said to the legislators. “We are being considered as part of the Capital Region in this casino siting process, but it seems like the region is a long way away.”

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