Bid for casino concessions rejected

ALBANY – The state Gaming Commission said Friday it will not change its application criteria for casinos, which was sought by the developers of Montgomery County’s casino project.

The commission’s stance has prompted an upcoming meeting between Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort and the developers for the proposed Exit 27 casino.

“Basically, we’re going to meet back with them,” Andrew Santillo, Montgomery County communications specialist, said Friday “We’re going to meet with the developers. We’ll assess it and take it from there.”

Developers of the proposed Exit 27 Casino in Montgomery County project eyed changes in the application process, including requesting a reduction of the licensing fee from $50 million to $25 million. Developers indicated the changes were needed for them to continue pursuing the project.

The $250 million Montgomery County casino resort plan would include slot machines, gaming tables, a hotel, villas and golf courses in three phases of development on land in the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam. The project would create 453 temporary construction jobs and 850 permanent casino jobs, the developers say.

Montgomery County officials sent a letter Thursday to the gaming commission that requested changes to the application process.

In a Friday email, state Gaming Facility Location Board Spokesman Lee Park said, “The requirements spelled out in the Request for Applications (RFA) establish a level playing field for all potential applicants, including the proposed project in Amsterdam. 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. 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.”

Park added, “The Gaming Facility Location Board carefully and thoroughly formed the RFA’s 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.”

State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, who represents Montgomery County, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Developers Jeff Parr and Terrance Doyle didn’t return phone calls Friday seeking comment.

During Monday night’s presentation at the Florida Town Hall, developers presented a plan that would require several changes to the state’s request for application, in order for the proposed development to be put forward.

“Without amendments to the RFA the proposed development will not be put forward on June 30,” the developers said in information about the project.

“Required investment and operating costs with anticipated gross gaming revenue for the location do not support the development of a gaming destination,” according to the information.

In the letter sent to the Gaming Commission, the county made the case for two changes to the state’s casino application process.

The county asked for a reduction in the licensing fee – which are paid to the state by developers – to $25 million from $50 million for Capital Region projects. Developers are looking for the state to increase the casino’s tax rate from 45 percent to 48 percent, in order for the state to recoup the reduced license fee.

Jeff Parr of Clairvest Group Inc., one of the developers for the project, said Wednesday the developers are not looking to short change the state on the license fees, and they plan to make it up with higher taxes rate once gaming revenues reach $135 million.

“We’re asking for help, but we’re trying to give back,” Parr said.

The letter notes the Capital Region is the only area eligible for a casino without the potential for a lower license fee. The siting board gave the other two regions contingencies for lower fees.

The county also asked for an extension – which would apply to all counties in the Capital region – of 60 days from June 30 to put in applications for projects. That would allow all proposed casino projects and their counties time to adjust to changes in the application, the letter said.

Kerry Minor also contributed information to this story.