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Florida board, residents unanimously approves casino resolution

Updated: 06/16/2014 5:37 PM
Created: 06/16/2014 3:51 PM WNYT.com
By: WNYT Staff

FLORIDA - In most Capital Region communities that are fighting for a casino, local leaders are also fighting with some of their residents, but there's one local town without protests or heated debate on the issue.

Every speaker at Monday night's public hearing in the town of Florida, in Montgomery County, wants a casino just off exit 27 of the Thruway.

The sprawling casino complex is proposed for a 512 acre farm property that straddles U.S. Route 30 just south of the city of Amsterdam.

"Not one negative comment," Matt Ossenfort, the Montgomery County executive said enthusiastically, "A unanimous vote by the board. It speaks to the need here to the community and the willingness to embrace the change and embrace this opportunity."

Ossenfort and other political leaders believe they should have the inside track for a casino license since unemployment in the Fulton-Montgomery County area is 7%, the second highest in New York State.

The also point out that 19% of the county residents live below the poverty level and 31% of those people are children. Finding an economically depressed region and turning it around was part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's criteria for landing a casino license.

"This is once in a lifetime," says Peter Marcil, an investment banker whose taking a chance on this exit 27 project. "We don't have a Metroplex, or a convention center, or a downtown sports arena. This is a once time opportunity and it's really important."

Developers are promising jobs for 450 construction workers, plus an additional 850 jobs once the casino is up and running. Median salaries, they say, would be about $42,000, which is nearly double the current average annual salary in the region.

"If we can get this through and the state backs us, it's going to be a total game changer," says Florida Supervisor Eric Mead.

"It would be a shot in the arm," according to Ossenfort, "It's something we need and something on which we can get support from the state."

"I could think of no better way to transform our community then by pursuing a strategy of creating jobs and restoring opportunity," said Michael McMahon, the Montgomery County commissioner of Social Services.

"Without this casino, there is not much on the horizon," said Joe Imanual, a former Amsterdam mayor. "An investment here would give us the miracle we need to get us back on track."

"With the tens of thousands of visitors to this destination, you can also be assured there'll be spin-off business to local vendors, contractors, hotels and restaurants," said Mark Gilmore, president of the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The success of the proposal may come with a caveat however. Matt Ossenfort says he needs more time, a 60-day extension from the state in order to get the finances in order. He also needs a reduction in the state casino license fee from $50 million to $25 million.

"It's going to be a tough challenge to make this work without that time line (change)," he says.

The same presentation from the Canadian developer is scheduled for Amsterdam City Hall on Tuesday night.

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