Give casino fair chance

The developers of the proposed casino in Montgomery County were dealt a lousy hand by the state. It includes an unfair license fee.

The New York State Gaming Commission should give the county a fair chance at having a casino by lowering the cost of the license fee.

A siting board spokesman said Friday the commission wouldn’t change the fee.

We strongly encourage the commission to reconsider.

The proposed Exit 27 casino could provide a substantial boost to the economy of the region. The $250 million project would include slot machines, gaming tables, a hotel, villas and golf courses in three phases of development on land in the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam. The project would create 453 temporary construction jobs and 850 permanent casino jobs, the developers say.

However, the developers – Clairvest Group, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. and Financial District Properties – say current requirements from the state make the project unaffordable.

The developers have a number of requests they are looking for the commission to fulfill to make the project a reality.

Chief among these – and the one that has gotten the most attention – is a reduction of the license fee the developers pay the state. The state’s mandated fee for Capital Region projects is $50 million, which the developers need lowered to $25 million for the project to be feasible.

As Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort noted, the state would still get its money. The developers want the state to increase the casino’s tax rate to the state from 45 percent to 48 percent in order for the state to recoup the money lost from a lower license fee.

The Capital Region is the only region without lower license-fee options. The gaming commission has given other regions contingencies for lower license fees. The fees in the other regions can vary by county and by how many casinos are placed in each region.

This is unfair to the Montgomery County developers. Montgomery County does not have the same economy as many other counties in the Capital Region, including Saratoga and Albany.

As the county noted in its letter to the gaming commission, the $50 million license fee means a lot more in Montgomery County than in some others in the Capital Region. The license fee represents 5.87 percent of the total county household income for Montgomery County. It represents just 1.52 percent for Schenectady County and less than 1 percent for Albany County.

It will be easier for bigger casinos to go into larger counties and pay $50 million up-front to the state, given the size and wealth of those counties and the number of tourists who already visit those areas. In counties such as Montgomery, having smaller casinos pay off the money over time is a more feasible approach.

We hope the commission will change its mind and give the developers a fair deal so the county will have a chance to see the proposal come to fruition.


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