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Seneca county casino proposal explained on WCNY’s ‘The Capitol Pressroom’

Seneca County bills itself as the “Heart of the Finger Lakes,” a growing tourist hot spot in central New York known for its vineyards and outdoor beauty. Rochester developer Tom Wilmot wants to leverage the region’s already growing tourism industry by building a casino. His vision for the $350 million Wilmot Casino and Resort includes a casino, hotel, an arts venue, restaurants and a health spa. Notably, he wants to ensure the project is in keeping with the region’s vineyard aesthetic.

Susan Arbetter, host of The Capitol Pressroom spoke to Wilmot Dec. 18. Listen to the show.

Susan Arbetter: Seneca is at the very northern tip of one of the three  regions most likely to get a casino, tell us why you think Seneca would work?

Tom Wilmot, Sr.: Well, it’s really ideally situated between Rochester, Syracuse, and the Finger Lakes tourism region. So, there are roughly 1,800,000 people in that general area, and that represents a tremendous opportunity if we can present a development that is attractive to them.

SA: There are four casino proposals in region five. Why is this different from the other 3, in places like Tioga and Broome?

TW: Basically, the other three are generally in the Binghamton area. If you look at market demographics, there is probably less than a third of the number of potential customers within a reasonable drive time in the Binghamton market as compared to our location on the thruway. We just anticipate that our facility because of the potential would be much larger, would create probably two to three times more jobs, both construction jobs and permanent jobs. It would be a much larger facility.

SA: How do you plan to keep the casino consistent with the vineyard aesthetic that many people come to the Finger Lakes for?

TW: We’ve been working with Paul Steelman, an architectural firm out of Vegas, who is one of the larger casino designers in the world. Paul is very sensitive. He’s visited the Finger Lake region; he’s sensitive to the feel of the community and to the discussions we have had with citizens. He’s working with what we call a “wine theme,” with a lot of natural stone and wood into the facility. It’s not going to look like Atlantic City or Vegas, it’s going to be much more subdued—not a lot of neon.

SA: In reaching out to the local communities, what kind of reaction have you received?

TW: It’s really two separate audiences. Right after the first of the year, we will be trying to meet with the majority of businesses in and around Seneca County and explain how we can jointly benefit from the traffic we’re bring and the traffic their bringing–both the wineries and the agricultural business.

There are people who, for religious and other reasons, oppose gaming, and we are respectful of that, though we may disagree with some of their views. I know we’ll have some programs that will address through the county if any problems do occur.

In January the state will release criteria for the casinos and issue requests for proposals.


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