Debate over possible racino in Cicero heats up

There's a small ghost town in Cicero on the edges of the airport. It has abandoned houses, a gas station and even a boarded up church. Rochester developer Thomas Wilmot wants to build a racino on what used to be military barracks - but he's seeing a lot of opposition.

Cicero neighbors have been receiving mailings from a group called "Stop Wilmot's Casino". Liz Doherty joined the group because she doesn't want a casino across the street from her house.

"You put a racino in where you got traffic coming in up and down Taft Road, some of that traffic is going to spill over, Smith Road Elementary School is right there," said Doherty.

What the "Stop Wilmot's Casino" ads don't say is that the Oneida Indian Nation, who runs Turning Stone Casino, is backing the group. Doherty says she always knew about the Oneida Nation's involvement - and doesn't have a problem with it.

"If any other business was encroaching on another business, nobody would think twice. In this case, because it is the Indian nation, all of a sudden it's not allowed," said Doherty.

Wilmot says the racino project will bring jobs and economic development and will also allow him to build a hotel for the convention center in Syracuse.

Wilmot has told Onondaga County lawmakers that he needs the benefits of a racino in Cicero to make the convention center hotel a reality. Legislature chairman James Rhinehart says both the city and county would benefit if a racino takes business from Turning Stone.

"The number that we were told, could be as much as $100 million going out of Onondaga County and down to the Oneidas, who don't pay taxes by the way," said Rhinehart. "And one of my big questions is - why not keep that money here?"

There will be a public forum on the racino tonight at the Onondaga County Legislature at 7:00pm.