A citizens group and competing casino interests have spent considerable time and resources in an attempt to stop the Lago Resort & Casino from going forward in the Upstate New York town of Tyre. One oft repeated criticism, before and after the development was awarded a license by the NYS Gaming Commission, has been the financial assistance Lago would receive from the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency (IDA).
The agency released a “working document” (.PDF) on its website last week explaining their reasoning to “subsidize” a commercial gaming interest. Nine reasons were stated for approving the financial assistance package.
Industrial development agencies the world over are formed and tasked with creating and maintaining development and economic opportunities to boost economies, increase tax revenues, and further develop the areas they serve. All nine points related to that mission. Among other assertions, opposing citizen group, Casino Free Tyre claimed in a June lawsuit filed against the IDA that their authority did not extend to casino developments as casinos were not authorized by the state when the development act was created in the 1970’s.
According to the agency’s statement: “The approved benefit package includes: (a) an exemption from state and local sales tax in the amount of $16 million; (b) an exemption from mortgage recording tax of $3.35 million; and (c) an exemption from real property taxes, pursuant to which the developer will make payments to the IDA for the benefit of the Town of Tyre, Seneca County and Waterloo Central School District totaling $44.3 million over 20 years. As part of the accord, the developer committed to purchasing construction materials and supplies from Seneca County vendors whenever possible, offsetting the impact of the local sales tax exemption. In addition, as part of the accord, Seneca County will receive payments in future years, offsetting the impact of the mortgage tax exemption.”
In conclusion the IDA states that the package gives Lago the best possible chance to succeed in creating jobs and generating revenue for the community. It also helps the developers reduce upfront costs and provides momentum to help the project succeed as soon as possible. The tax agreement pay schedule is also said to provide some certainty in real estate taxes over the next two decades.
The NYS Gaming Commission unanimously approved Lago Resort & Casino’s license without comment on December 21, 2015 although several lawsuits are still active. Casino Free Tyre has said they are considering a new lawsuit in light of the commission’s decision. Lago is expected to open in 2017.