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Wilmorite unveils plan for Seneca County Casino

by Jane Flasch

Seneca County, N.Y. -- Nearly a decade after his proposal to build a casino in downtown Rochester went nowhere, developer Tom Wilmot is trying again. This time in Seneca County.

"We've had a couple of false starts for almost 10 years," Wilmot said. "We're excited about this opportunity."

This time voters paved the way by approving an amendment to allow construction of four casinos statewide. Yet for Wilmot and his company Wilmorite it is far from a done deal.

The area from Seneca County down to Binghamton will get just one of the casinos and there are already four other competing proposals.

Wilmot said he started looking for a Seneca County location two years ago even though at the time the thought that voters would actually approve the casino amendment was considered a long shot. Because of that, he appears to be ahead of potential competitors.

Designed by a Las Vegas architect, the proposed $350 million dollar Wilmot Casino and Resort has all the amenities you might expect: a hotel, parking garage, entertainment venue, three restaurants and a spa. Yet it is decidedly less flashy.

"We would like something that is consistent with a wine theme, (we're) trying to incorporate natural stone from the area to give it a much warmer, calmer feeling," said Wilmot.

Wilmot says it was a request from Seneca County Lawmakers. He says he is willing to listen to others. The first public hearing is scheduled next month. "It will be very public as to what's going on and they're going to have lots of input," he said.

What won't change is the location. Wilmorite has acquired 96 acres just north of thruway exit 41. The site is vacant farmland away from residential areas but easily accessible for 9-thousand cars a day.

The location is also within a 45 minute drive for 1.8 million people, though in direct competition with tribal casinos in Niagara Falls and outside Syracuse. "Being the newest facility we'll have the newest technology and I think we'll have incentives that will be very attractive to gamers," said Wilmot.

He acknowledges some residents are wary but points out the economic impact to the area: 18-thousand permanent jobs averaging $45-thousand a year and profit sharing of $4 million a year each for Seneca County and the town of Tyre.

By contrast the annual budget for the town is $500-thousand a year.

In January the state will release criteria for the casinos and issue requests for proposals. Submissions are due in June. A site selection committee chooses winning locations in December.

"We're very excited and happy that we'll have the opportunity to compete," said Wilmot.

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Washington Times