County votes to continue casino support

Montgomery County legislators again have voiced their support for a casino near Thruway Exit 27 in the town of Florida.

Representatives of the Clairvest Group, developers of the casino proposal, are going ahead with plans to apply for a gaming license by June 30, despite the fact that the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board has denied the county’s request to extend the application deadline by 60 days and defer half of the $50 million application fee. Legislators passed a resolution Tuesday supporting the “location, approval and operation” of a casino. District 1 Legislator Martin P. Kelly cast the lone negative vote, as he did in February when the Legislature first endorsed the casino plan.

Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said Tuesday the request for the deadline extension and fee deferral was based on comparisons with other counties which are in the running for a casino. Ossenfort wrote a letter last week to state Gaming Commission officials stating that building the casino in the town of Florida would satisfy the three main objectives of the Upstate New York Gaming Development Act approved statewide by voters in November: attracting tourism to upstate New York, creating the opportunity for economic growth, and providing property tax relief.

Ossenfort also wrote that the $50 million license fee is a larger percentage of the “aggregate household income” of Montgomery, Fulton and Schoharie County residents than in other counties where the casino could be built. The same is true of the $135 million “minimum capital investment,” he wrote.

“Based on our analysis of the data, we concluded that Montgomery County should be treated differently,” Ossenfort said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Four counties [in the running for a casino] have lower capital investments and licensing fees; some licensing fees are as low as $20 million.”

He said it “couldn’t hurt to ask” for a partial deferral of the licensing fee, although “we were warned it could derail the project.”

Ossenfort said the developers decided to move forward with the application process even though the Gaming Commission denied the request. He said the developers were impressed with the amount of local support that has been shown for the casino.

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.