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Monday, October 20, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,
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Casino request forwarded County officials make their case

Friday, June 20, 2014 - Updated: 10:18 AM

By NICOLE ANTONUCCI

nicole.antonucci@recordernews.com

The developers of a proposed casino near Thruway Exit 27 should know by next week if they will be submitting a gaming license application to the state.

That is when the state Gaming Commission is expected to decide if it will grant a request to change the request for application (RFA) process and allow the developer Clairvest Group Inc. to defer a portion of the $50 million license fee, as well as grant a 60-day extension to the application deadline.

Officials from Montgomery County and the city of Amster-dam traveled to the Gaming Commission headquarters in Schenectady Thursday to discuss the changes with Bradley Fischer, the commission director of policy development and external affairs.

"We met with the gaming commission and we presented what we feel is a compelling data-driven request," Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said. "It is being taken under consideration and they assured us that we will have a timely response. At that point, we will assess where we are and work with our partners in the private sector on when, and if, this project can move forward."

Ossenfort attended the meeting with county Economic Develop-ment and Planning Director Kenneth Rose, Economic Dev-elopment Specialist Karl Gustaf-son, and Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, who was on hand to show the city's support for the project.

"The city of Amsterdam has the most potential to be transformed by this project and stands to gain the most from this project in terms of improving properties and infrastructure," Thane said after the meeting. "We are optimistic and now we have to wait and see."

Lee Park, a spokesman for the Gaming Commission was limited in his comments about the meeting.

"Commission staff met with representatives from Montgomery County this afternoon at the county's request. No decisions were made at this meeting, as the RFA and the process have been dictated by the Gaming Facility Location Board," Park said.

The meeting follows by two days the developers' visit to Montgomery County, where they detailed their plans for 512 acres of land straddling the border between the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam.

It was during those meetings, that Clairvest Group Inc. CEO Jeffrey Parr said he would ask the state to consider the economy of Montgomery County as it did in other regions in the state, and allow him to defer $25 million of the licensing fee. The state would recoup the upfront reduction once the site began generating revenue.

The June 30 deadline, which is 10 days away, is also presenting a challenge and the group is seeking a 60-day extension.

Clairvest Group Inc. was among 22 entities to initially submit $1 million for the application fee. Parr plans to invest an additional $250 million in the project, which will consist of a casino, hotel, spa, two golf courses, 300 residential units and the potential for a commercial development. He is required to make a minimum capital investment of $135 million.

In a letter provided to the state during Thursday's meeting, Ossenfort made the deferment and extension requests on behalf of Clairvest, adding that the accommodations should extend to all parties in the capital region.

Ossenfort pointed out that the tax rates on slot and table revenue were set by statute in the state's Gaming Economic Development Act passed in November. The licensing fee and the minimum investment amounts, however, were established by the Gaming Location Facility Board.

In two of the three gaming casino regions -- the Catskills/Hudson Valley region (Region 1) and the Eastern Southern Tier (Region 5) -- licensing fee varies by county. For example, in Region 1, the licensing fee is set at a range of $35 million to $70 million. In Region 5, the licensing fee ranges from $20 million to $50 million. However, in Region 2 -- the Capital Region -- it was set at $50 million.

The letter goes on to provide a percentage of how much of the licensing fee represents the total household income in Montgomery County, compared to other counties. Montgomery County is the highest with 5.87 percent, compared to Albany or Rensselaer, where the licensing fee represents .69 percent and 1.33 percent, respectively, of their household incomes.

It makes the same comparisons for the minimum investment amount where, except for Schoharie County, Montgomery County is higher than the others.

"The data shows Montgomery County and Albany and Rensselaer are different communities that should have different standards, similarly to the way they have done in other municipalities in the state," Ossenfort said after the meeting. "Based on the analysis that was done by a credible firm, there is a $90 million difference in expected revenues from Albany to Amsterdam and it is that difference which is one of the reasons why we should be treated differently in relation to the RFA."

Further in the letter, Ossenfort outlines how Montgomery County meets the criteria in the state legislation, specifically the economic impact. Similar to the presentation given at the town of Florida meeting, Ossenfort describes the demographics of the county in terms of employment, poverty and tax rate, and how the project would provide a benefit.

"There was no disagreement that the project would fulfill the intent of the legislation," Ossenfort said. "In respect to the request, they need to take some time to look at the data. We were told they should have a response by the end of the week and if not, by early next week."

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