Racino plans in Onondaga County hit snag

Nov 2, 2011

Plans for a racino near Hancock Airport in Syracuse have hit a snag, but supporters are still optimistic.  

Onondaga County lawmakers wouldn't vote this week on a memorializing resolution that's one of the steps developer Thomas Wilmot needs in order to get approval to build the combination race track casino near Hancock Airport.  Gambling ventures have a history of failure in the county legislature, but this plan has an extra incentive.   The only way Wilmot can build a convention center hotel in downtown Syracuse, is if he can count on two-million dollars in revenue from the racino.  And Democrat Sam Laguzza says that could change the legislature's anti gambling history.

"I think there's a better opportunity this time because the other hook involved is the opportunity to develop a Westin Convention Center hotel, and that's important too," says Laguzza.

Wilmot remains optimistic, noting only a handful of people showed up in legislature chambers to oppose the vote this week, despite a lobbying by the Oneida Nation, which runs the Turning Stone Casino.

"Normally on gaming issues you can have 1,000 people show up," said Wilmot. "With the combination of what the Oneidas have done with phone banks and advertising, trying to produce opposition, the fact that only a handful of people appeared indicate to me that this is not an issue that's drawing great support."

Lawmakers voted against making a decision on the resolution this week, because it hadn't gone through the normal committee process.  They will hold a hearing on the plans November 17th, with the possibility of bringing it back to the floor next month.