County backs plan for casino

FONDA – The Montgomery County Legislature voted Tuesday to support a potential casino on land in the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam.

Ken Rose, director of Montgomery County’s Business Development Center, said Mick Mullins, a licensed real estate broker of Mullins Realty in Slingerlands, is promoting a pair of properties off Route 30 for a possible casino.

Rose said he has been in contact with a possible developer for the property. He would not name the developer.

The land totals 512 acres – 341 in the city of Amsterdam and 171 in the town of Florida.

According to Mullins’ marketing flier, the land in the city costs $3.5 million and the land in the town of Florida costs $1.75 million.

After Tuesday’s county meeting, Rose said he was pleased the Legislature supports the potential casino.

“Now we’ll be able to move on with our process,” Rose said.

The town of Florida council and the Amsterdam city council also have voted in support of the casino idea.

Montgomery County is one of the counties in the Capital Region being considered for a casino after voters statewide approved a casino measure in November’s general election. State government will establish four casinos in the Capital Region, Catskills and Southern Tier, with one region receiving two casino licenses.

Montgomery County, with an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, had the highest voter approval of a potential casino in the November vote, at 56 percent. Fulton County came in at a close second, with 55.9 percent.

Not all of the nine county legislators at Tuesday’s meeting were in support of the casino plan. Legislator Martin Kelly of District 1 voted against the resolution, and Legislator Roy Dimond of District 3 did not attend the meeting.

“I represent Legislative District 1, so when I looked at the numbers for my district, 52 percent of the people were in favor [of the casino] and 48 percent were opposed,” Kelly said. “I don’t think a margin of 4 percent really gives a clear direction of which way this should go.”

Kelly said he also doesn’t support the casino initiative because of a Sept. 19 report from Moody’s Investment Services.

“The report warned states not to rely heavily on gambling growth and pointed out how casino revenue in Atlantic City has dropped 44 percent since 2006,” he said. “I think we also have to look at the impacts that this could have on our county before we move forward with having a casino here.”

Kelly said he thinks the state will take over the project if it moves forward, and that’s not something he’s in favor of.

“I understand the way this resolution is drafted that it supposedly allows us to reconsider the issue if a site is chosen. However, my feeling is that if the state or federal governments see that we’re in favor of something, they tend to overstep the local governments,” he said. “Case in point, look at Beech Nut. That was a state agreed and sponsored move to keep them in the county, and I’m thankful for that. However, the county wasn’t really involved or at the table with the process. The state’s history is the reason I can’t support this casino plan.”

However, Kelly said he’s not against job creation in the county.

“A casino could generate jobs in this county, which is something I’m not against at all,” he said. “I just don’t think we should be so hasty in our decision; we need to take it back to the tortoise and the hare.”

County Executive Matt Ossenfort said the support of the Legislature and municipalities for the casino is promising.

“I think this is an important first step in the process of what could be a great opportunity for this county,” Ossenfort said. “I think there’s a lot of information that still needs to be gathered. This is a long process, and this is just the beginning. I think it’s something we need to look at and consider, and I’m glad we’re able to do that.”

Casino gambling requests for proposals will be issued in March. Bids are due in June and the decision will be made in the fall regarding the location of the new casinos, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in January.