Rejected!

Montgomery County officials were disappointed, but said the county will bounce back after the state’s rejection Thursday of a casino proposal in the city of Amsterdam and town of Florida.

The state Gaming Commission’s New York Gaming Facility Location Board in New York City unanimously decided to disqualify a developer’s $245 million proposal to build a casino near Thruway Exit 27.

The board said the application for the Montgomery County site was incomplete. Board members said making an exception for the developer, Florida Acquisition Corp., would be unfair to the other casino applicants.

“It was one heck of an opportunity and it’s a shame it didn’t work,” Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said today. “There’s certainly a lot of other opportunities out there.”

Ossenfort pointed out Fulton and Montgomery counties are working on a regional business park project on Route 30A.

“There’s always other opportunities, and we’ll keep plugging away,” he said.

Florida Town Supervisor Eric Mead today also tempered his disappointment.

“It’s not a tragic blow to the town,” Mead said. “The town’s not suffering. The town’s in pretty good shape.”

But Mead also said it was a “little upsetting” the state Gaming Commission chose to squash the casino proposal in Montgomery County before it ever fully had a chance to compete with the other proposals. He said the proposal never got to “see where the cards may fall” regarding its chances.

Mead also said he is disappointed for Ken Rose, Montgomery County Business Development Center chief executive officer, who Mead said worked hard with the developers to get the proposal to the state.

Rose didn’t immediately return a phone call this morning seeking comment about the rejection.

“It’s unfortunate for the whole county,” Mead said of the rejection.

The Gaming Facility Location Board made its decision after hearing a plea from Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane to reconsider disqualifying the proposal.

She told board members at the meeting in New York City that Montgomery County is one of the most impoverished counties in the state and needs the type of economic boost the casino would provide to the area.

“This project has been phenomenal in giving us hope,” Thane said at the meeting.

She said the proposed casino received overwhelming support in the community.

Knowing the application was incomplete, she said, the “partners” in the casino proposal tried to contact the Gaming Commission about the concerns but never received a reply.

Florida Acquisition’s Jeff Parr also attended the meeting, but the board would not allow him to speak, saying it would be unfair to the other applicants. The board allowed Thane to speak as a courtesy because she was not an applicant.

The casino was one of five casino proposals in the Capital Region. The state will award a license for at least one casino in the Capital Region in the fall.

The remaining four proposed casino sites are in East Greenbush, Troy, Schenectady and Howes Cave.

Florida Acquisition Corp. is owned by Clairvest Corp., based in Toronto, and Great Canadian Gaming Corp., based in British Columbia.

The Canadian developers sought changes in the Montgomery County application process, including a 60-day extension to submit the completed application. They also requested a reduction of the licensing fee from $50 million to $25 million.

The Gaming Commission turned down the request for the reduction in June, but the developers still submitted an incomplete application to the state June 30.

The application included 80 non-responses to inquiries, according to the commission.

The proposed casino would have included slot machines, gaming tables, a hotel, a restaurant, villas and golf courses in three phases of development. The project would have created 453 temporary construction jobs and 850 permanent casino jobs, the developers said.

Leader-Herald Managing Editor Tim Fonda contributed to this report.