Florida Town Board approves casino support

The Florida Town Board voted 4-1 Monday to support the idea of a casino in Montgomery County.

Voters statewide approved a referendum in November 2013 calling for the development of seven casinos in the state. The siting process is under way, and a 512-acre plot in the Town of Florida is under consideration. The Amsterdam Common Council voted 3-0 last week in favor of the idea of a casino in the county “provided there is stated support from the host municipality.” That support came with Monday’s vote.

Several town residents spoke at Monday’s meeting. Those in favor of the idea cited the potential for jobs and a financial boost to the area’s economy; those opposed said a casino would destroy the town’s rural character and cause more problems than it would solve.

Town resident Christine Jaracz said she was opposed to locating a casino in the county.

“I’d like to see a return on the investment,” she said. “Many towns [where casinos have been built] have seen their taxes go up.”

Town resident Raymond Sievers said a gambling operation is not the answer to the areas’s problems.

“‘Casino’ is a nice name, but it’s a gambling hall,” he said. “Who want to raise a family next to a gambling hall?”

Town resident Doug Lampkin said the area always has been rural in character.

“I’m not against growth, but I am against a casino,” he said.

Town resident Joe Slezak said the siting process should focus on redeveloping properties in the City of Amsterdam rather than destroying farm land in the town.

Mark Kilmer, president of the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he couldn’t see a “down side” to a casino in the county. He noted that the chamber board of directors already has voted to support the project.

“Property tax revenues and sales tax revenues will be huge,” he said. “The project will generate hundreds of construction jobs and thousands of permanent jobs.”

Town Councilman Ron Phillips, who cast the only negative vote, cited a comprehensive study done years ago.

“They wanted all the development to be on Route 5S,” he said. “You’re going against the people’s wishes.”

Town Supervisor Eric Mead said a casino would boost the local economy.

“It’s not all about gambling,” he said. “I’ve gotten phone calls from business owners who say it will boost their sales.”

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.