Onondaga County lawmakers support plan to build racino

Dec 7, 2011

It was a rare yes vote on a gambling issue in the Onondaga County Legislature Tuesday.  The prospect of a convention center hotel makes the possibility of a racino more palatable to lawmakers.

Jobs and economic development seemed to trump concerns over gambling as Onondaga County lawmakers Tuesday approved a non-binding resolution that supports Wilmorite's proposal to build a racino at the old Hancock Air Base in Cicero.  Wilmorite President Paul Wilmot says they needed this vote to compete for the state's final harness license, and if they get it, they'll be able to afford a second project, construction of a Westin convention center hotel in downtown Syracuse. Wilmot says the developer will pump $200 million in both projects.

“This will be going out as one financing package,” said Wilmot. “So they will both begin construction on the very same day.”

There were still concerns about the dangers of gambling in the community. Longtime gambling foe and former Rescue Mission Director Clarence Jordan echoed those concerns.

“It’s a sad commentary that we have to depend on gambling to solve our financial problems,” said Jordan.

 By an 11- 8 vote, lawmakers agreed to the non-binding resolution that gives the developer the last piece of an application for the last harness track license in the state.  It was the prospect of a convention center hotel, that's tied to this racino, as well as economic development that swayed many like Legislature Chair James Rhinehart.

“It will bring economic development,” said Rhinehart. “It will bring property taxes. It will bring sales taxes. Revenues that are desperately needed when we talk about balancing the budget. But the biggest bonus with this whole thing is the hotel.”