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Developers mulling options after casino application change requests denied

Saturday, June 21, 2014 - Updated: 4:08 AM


Casino developers for the Thruway Exit 27 proposal have 10 days to make a decision whether they will move forward with their application after the state Gaming Commission rejected requests to modify it.

Clairvest Group Inc. representatives originally said this week their plan would not move forward without a 60-day deadline extension, as well as a deferment to the $50 million licensing fee.

On Friday, it wasn't clear if that would still be the case.

"The process is not over until the license is awarded," said Clairvest investment adviser Peter Marcil of Bentley Associates in New York City.

However, Marcil would not confirm that they were in fact submitting the application.

"We are considering what we do next. It is still possible that we do that," he said.

Calls to Clairvest Group Inc. CEO Jeffrey Parr were not returned.

The state Gaming Facility Location Board decided Friday against changing easing the application guidelines for Clairvest after meeting with Montgomery County officials Thursday.

"The requirements spelled out in the Request for Applications establish a level playing field for all potential applicants, including the proposed project in Amsterdam," Gaming Facility Location Board spokesman Lee Park said. "It is simply not feasible or fair to alter any provision of the RFA or make concessions at the request of a bidder.

"To do so would create an unfair bidding process for every other potential bidder and invalidate the RFA," Park continued.

Park said the board formed the RFA components, including the minimum license fee and the application deadline, with the assistance of the Board's Gaming Advisory Services consultant.

"The RFA clearly follows the intent of the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act -- to create an open and competitive process to determine the best possible applicants to provide jobs and revenue to the locality, region and state," he said. "While we cannot honor any applicant's request to make concessions or alterations to the RFA, we do encourage all applicants to move forward with their bids and put their best plans forward."

Marcil said he respected the decision by the board, but that the game was not entirely lost.

"In 2005, the Amsterdam High School Football team lost two games in the season, only to come back and win the state Championships," said Marcil, an Amsterdam native. "We are taking inspiration from that team."

Montgomery County officials said they are going to sit down with the development team to discuss their next step.

"I believe in the message that we sent to the gaming commission," Executive Matt Ossenfort said. "But now is the time to assess the situation and talk to our partners about the final decision."

Ossenfort attended the Thursday meeting with county Economic Development and Planning Director Kenneth Rose, economic development specialist Karl Gustafson, and Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, who was on hand to show the city's support for the project.

It was two days after the developers' visits 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 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.

Ossenfort's letter provided 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.


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