July 2, 2014

The Update Desk: Gambling on Wilmorite

A few days ago, I wondered aloud if we in Onondaga County should have even considered gambling on Wilmorite and their Seneca County casino dream, given the developer's recently spotty record here.

Here are a few updates related to the earlier post:

  • This past Monday, Wilmorite was one of sixteen groups to submit proposals for the handful of spots to be awarded to new, non-Native American full service gambling resorts.  Which basically means a casino, hotel, parking garage, and spa - I think those would be the minimum requirements.  Golf courses are helpful too, from a full-service perspective.  As I've noted, if I were a betting woman I'd put my money on Tioga Downs for the Fingerlakes/Southern Tier location, but we'll see what happens.  Next steps? Vetting of the proposals by the lawyers, and then I think we wait to hear from the NY Gambling Facility Location Board (who names these Boards, anyway?) on who gets the first shot in each of the regions.
  • More importantly, at least for us here in Syracuse, we learned that the old Sibley's Building has been sold. You recall the Wilmorite connection there -- a default on the mortgage, which could have put a proposed rehabilitation project in the dumpster.  Happily, the building was sold to folks who are affiliated with Robert Doucette, the developer with an $18.7 million plan to create apartments and retail space in the building; hopefully the sale will start the ball rolling on this vacant-too-long property on a busy downtown corner. Doucette has a great track record over the years, and I think this is a gamble we can afford to take.

Finally, and this is sort of a non-Wilmorite wild card:  in its infinite wisdom, the New York Legislature passed a bill authorizing gambling at racinos until 6AM. Racinos are horse tracks that also have limited gambling, mostly video terminals.  Revenues are down at some of these places, and so our elected representatives decided that they can stay open another couple hours to try and get a few more bucks out of the folks who can't think of anything better to do in the wee small hours of the morning.

Hmm. Revenues are down at existing gaming facilities, at a time when we're proposing a major expansion of gambling?  How ironic.  And who knew?

Well, it shouldn't come as a surprise Some of the experts have suggested a couple of reasons for this, including erosion of the middle class and a saturation of smaller regional facilities that cannot compete with the big guys like the luxury casinos in Las Vegas.

It'll be interesting to see how our new regional casinos will fare against this backdrop, and if the promise of last fall's constitutional amendment -- "promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues produced" -- will come to fruition.