The effort to further Onondaga County's chances of landing a Racino got nowhere in the Onondaga County Legislature on Tuesday: legislators argued about how the proposal to show Albany their support for the project came up for a vote without going through committes, and the waiver needed to take the vote failed. A little later in the session, legislators approved a public hearing for the racino proposal. It will be in the Legislature Chambers, Thursday, November 17th at 7pm.
Among those watching the proceedings, Thomas Wilmot, chairman of the board of Wilmorite, the Rochester-based company that wants to build the racino. He told us he was hoping to present the plan to the state's Racing & Wagering Board this month, but now will not be able to. There needs to be an 'endorsement' from the locality, something the projects in Jefferson and Sullivan Counties already have. Wilmot also told us he'd like to just do a video lottery facility, which will make money, but the law requires a racetrack too, which will break even, at best.
The Racino is how Wilmot will fund the hotel at Syracuse's Oncenter--he says two million in profits from the Racino would go to the hotel's operations every year. He says the financing won't work without the racino, and he won't build the hotel without it. Plans for the Racino, at the old military barracks on Hancock Airport land, are on the Wilmorite website.
Before the legislature got into its agenda, several people spoke in the public comment period, including representatives of the Conservative Party, who argued against gambling. A representative of Syracuse area plumbers and steamfitters argued for the project, saying it would provide jobs, and the county legislature endorsement would keep Onondaga County competitive for the racino.
Wilmot also commented on gambling, saying it's no longer an issue. He says a study commissioned by his company found the Turning Stone brings in $350-million dollars a year. $100 million from Onondaga County patrons, and that gambling is 'part of New York's life now.'