To the editor:
This past November New Yorkers overwhelmingly approved an amendment to New York state's constitution legalizing non-Indian casino gambling in New York state in an effort to enhance upstate tourism development. The new legislation will also promote job growth, increase aid to education, and go a long way to reduce local property taxes. A total of four destination gaming resorts will be authorized: two in the Catskills, one in the Southern Tier, and one in the capital region.
A report released by the state Division of the Budget estimates that the regional fiscal impact to the capital region would be $35.5 million annually, which includes $11.4 million to the host county and municipality, while the remainder would be allocated to the other counties in the region.
Montgomery County has been designated as one of the eight counties in the capital region. The others are Fulton, Schoharie, Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga and Washington. The state gaming commission will soon appoint a siting board to examine specific criteria in selecting the location of the gaming resort. Seventy percent of the decision will be based on economic impact and 30 percent on work force and other local impact factors. In addition, local support must be established.
Of the eight counties in the capital region, according to the state Department of Labor, Montgomery and Fulton counties have the highest unemployment rate -- 7.8 percent -- while Saratoga (5.2 percent), Albany (5.5 percent), and Rensselaer (6.0 percent) counties enjoy the lowest.
Also, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Montgomery County has the lowest per capita money income ($22,936) and the highest percentage below the poverty level (19.2 percent), while counties like Saratoga, Albany and Rensselaer have much higher per capita incomes ($34,125, $31,924, and $29,647, respectively) and far smaller numbers of people living below poverty level (6.5 percent, 13.1 percent, and 11.8 percent, respectively).
On the issue of local support, of the eight counties in our region, Montgomery and Fulton counties, in the November 2013 election, showed the most overwhelming support for the measure with 56 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed. On the other hand, Saratoga, Albany and Schenectady counties showed the most overwhelming opposition to the amendment, with 53 percent opposed and 47 percent in favor.
In light of the above, isn't it clear that the positive economic impact on Montgomery County would be far more significant than on any of the other counties in the Capital District region? Is it not time for Montgomery County and the city of Amsterdam to begin to seriously promote our area as a serious contender for a resort casino that could provide as many as 600 or more jobs of all skill levels and more than $11 million to our county and city revenues?
We have a more than capable work force ideally suited for the jobs that a resort casino would provide. Montgomery County is a perfect location with a recently improved Thruway Exit 27, along with exits 28 and 29 with plenty of wide open spaces overlooking the Mohawk Valley. The success of the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, a rural area both geographically and demographically similar to ours, should convince any would-be developer that a similar development in Montgomery County would be an overwhelming success.
While we recognize that the new county legislature certainly has its plate full, we believe that the opportunity for Montgomery County to be considered as a viable site to establish a destination gaming resort and casino is one that will not present itself again. With that in mind we urge all of our city and county elected and appointed officials show their support and begin the process to make this a reality. We cannot afford to remain silent on such an important economic development opportunity.
Paul M. Parillo,
Robert J. Parillo,