Montgomery County officials are hoping the state will choose their county in the fall for the site of a Capital Region casino.
Last November, Montgomery County residents voted in favor of building a casino in the Capital Region as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's casino proposal. Now, the county is trying to get a casino license from the state.
Ken Rose, director of Montgomery County's Business Development Center, is spearheading the casino effort. He said he's been working with Mick Mullins, a licensed real estate broker of Mullins Realty in Slingerlands, and an undisclosed property developer.
Mullins has been promoting a pair of properties off Route 30 for the potential casino. The land totals 512 acres - 341 in the city of Amsterdam and town of Florida owned by the Nadler Bros., and 171 in the town of Florida owned by Larry Francisco. The properties straddle Route 30 just south of the Thruway.
According to Mullins' marketing flier, the land in the city costs $3.5 million and the land in the town of Florida costs $1.75 million.
Rose said his office won't know the full potential economic effect a casino would have in that area until he knows the potential size of the casino. The size won't be determined until the final marketing studies are done by the anonymous development team looking at the site.
"We'll have more of a magnitude for what the capital investment would be, what potential construction jobs and permanent jobs would come from this when the studies are done," he said. "It's hard to judge right now what the actual real property tax revenue would be as well. The one thing we do know for sure is the sharing of the revenue as a host community; the state's projected it at about $11 million, which is almost over a third of the county's real property tax money."
Rose said the development group he's been working with thinks the Route 30 site is the best spot for a potential casino in the Capital Region.
"Obviously, location is key, and that spot has access right off the highway," he said. "There's infrastructure capacity there and the market studies are telling the group what they can potentially generate from that site, which makes them feel that that's the best site in the capital district for a casino, let alone the one that's going to have the most economic impact for a region."
A large part of the specific criteria for the selection of the casino site depends on the economic effect it would have on the area it's developed in.
"Seventy percent of the decision on siting a destination gaming resort will be based on economic activity and business development factors; 20 percent on local impact and siting factors; and 10 percent on workforce factors," Cuomo's bill says.
The bill also makes the demonstration of local support mandatory for the state's Request For Application process. Rose said he requested the town of Florida and the city of Amsterdam propose resolutions, along with the county Legislature, in support of the casino project. All three resolutions passed.
Florida Supervisor Eric Mead said he had to support the resolution because a potential casino would have too many positive effects to ignore.
"I voted for this resolution because of the jobs, first and foremost," Mead said. "The jobs that would come out of this for Montgomery County and the impact that it could have on that area alone would be huge. That's what we need for this county. I would be happy with wherever the casino went in Montgomery County, not just the town of Florida. I just want to see this help the economy here. This would be a big boost for the economy and the work force. Not just the jobs that are created for building it, but the long-term jobs, for future employment in this area."
Rose said he anticipates the RFA will come to the county within the next month. Depending on how it's worded, he'll know exactly what he can include in the potential casino plans, what will need to be done and what's already been completed in the process. He said if the RFA is similar to the bill passed in November, then the county is in good shape.
"The legislation itself calls for a destination-type facility, in an area where it will have a strong regional impact on the economy, and obviously between Fulton and Montgomery counties, there's no other place in the capital region where a casino would have as big of an economic impact as it would here, especially since we've got an 8.2 percent unemployment rate," he said. "So, we just have to see if the RFA holds true to what the legislation says."
Rose said the completion of the Hampton Inn & Suites on Market Street in downtown Amsterdam where the old America's Best Value Inn used to be and the possible downtown relocation of the West End Amtrak train station would "fit into" the overall plans of the potential casino.
"Shuttle runs to and from the casino and a hotel in downtown Amsterdam with renovation to a Hampton Inn-type facility enhances and increases marketing value for the area," he said. "We're trying to draw people in and obviously you're going to have some spill-over into the adjacent establishments, which is what we want. We want to get the people to the area, and it helps us to promote what we have outside of the casino site area."
Rose said the development team is considering creating a facility similar to the Verona-based Turning Stone Resort Casino.
"You're looking at one facility located more in a rural-type setting," he said. "That's exactly what this location is, and that's exactly what Turning Stone is. You're not talking about 10-15 casinos. A lot of people are comparing the social impacts and crime impacts of casinos, but a lot of the studies refer to Atlantic City and Las Vegas-type casinos with a strip of casinos right in one area. This is completely different; this is one casino. You're comparing apples to oranges. This is on the lines of a Turning Stone Resort, and there has been no substantial increase in property crime or anything of that magnitude since it opened in 1993."
Rose said the difference between Turning Stone and the potential capital region casino is that Turning Stone is an Indian-run casino and the potential casino will be a private commercial operation.
"There's going to be sales tax that's going to be generated and real property tax that will be generated, so there will be more of an economic impact for the local municipalities rather than what Turning Stone has done since they're an Indian-run casino," Rose said.
New York state has five Indian-run casinos, all of them upstate. Revenues from gaming at Indian-run casinos are required to be used for tribal governmental and charitable ventures only. The revenues are exempt from federal, state and local taxes.
As far as the competition with the other capital region counties, Rose said he's confident Montgomery County has the best site.
"We feel that this is the largest potential casino site, which allows for a much larger range of potential amenities so that this could be turned into a true destination in and of itself," he said. "We feel the other counties just can't provide that."
Of the capital district counties, Schenectady and Washington counties voted no to the casino in November's election.
Saratoga County voted yes in November and the Saratoga Springs City Council voted no last week to the development of a casino in their county. Schoharie County followed suit, voting yes in November and no at its Board of Supervisors meeting earlier this month.
Rensselaer County's legislature voted in support of a casino, and Albany County has already sited an old meat packing plant, Tobin First Prize Center, near Exit 5 of Interstate 90 in Albany, for a potential casino.
Mead said he's been greeted with support and complaints for the casino project.
"I've seen more people in favor of the casino than people not in favor, but there's been some negativity," he said. "I think most of the negativity is in the vicinity of where the casino is. But, I've also gotten a lot of positive feedback from people that live near the vicinity as well. So it's kind of split in that area, and the majority of the town overall is in favor of this project."
Mead said he lives about a mile from the casino site and has no problem with seeing it from his house.
"If I stand on my front porch, I'll be able to look across the New York State Thruway and see [the casino] if it was to be built there," he said. "My mother and father would be able to see it out of their front window as well, and they don't mind. It's not out of site from my residence, so I will be affected by it as well, but I know that this county needs an economic boost."
Rose said he's heard the majority of Montgomery County is on board with the project, but he has received a few negative letters.
"Everybody has their own opinion and that's what this whole process is about," he said. "Obviously, not everyone is going to be in favor of this development, and we understand that. Should it get to the level of this potentially being a site in the application process, obviously everybody is not going to be happy and we understand that. It's just like with any project you do, everyone's not going to be happy, but the potential economic impacts cannot be ignored; they're too great and they can do a lot for this economy and affect a lot of lives in a positive way as far as employment. We have to take that into consideration. What is the greater good of the public? What is the greater good of our constituents here in Montgomery and Fulton counties? What's the greater good for the overall health of the economy? We think this is too big of an opportunity to pass up."
After the RFAs are issued this month, bids will be due in June, and the location decision will be made by the state in the fall.
On the table
Montgomery County is trying to market a pair of properties to a casino developer. They are:
341 acres in the city of
Amsterdam and town of Florida owned by the Nadler Bros.
171 acres in the town of Florida owned by Larry