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Lago Casino construction is full speed ahead

Greg Cotterill
Finger Lakes Public Radio
Lago Resort and Casino parterners Thomas Wilmot Sr., left, and Brent Stevens sign a beam at a ceremony marking the project's increased pace of construction.

Construction is picking back up on the controversial Lago Resort and Casino in Seneca County following the New York State Gaming Commission's decision to license it in December. At a public ceremony last week, Lago officials said the casino will be a catalyst for economic growth in the region. Owner Thomas Wilmot Sr. thanked the crowd of locals for standing with the project.

"If it hadn’t been for your support, we wouldn’t be here today, we wouldn’t have won the license, we wouldn’t have prevailed in court," Wilmot said. "I thank you all enough for your support and your continued support over this roughly three-year period."

Credit Greg Cotterill / Finger Lakes Public Radio
Finger Lakes Public Radio
The future site of the Lago Resort and Casino in Tyre, New York.

Since its inception, the casino has received  pushback from nearby Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack in Farmington and Turning Stone Casino in Verona. They fear Lago will steal their business and, ultimately, their jobs. Another group opposed to Lago is a collection of Seneca County residents, called Casino-Free Tyre. They are currently challenging Lago in court over its environmental impact. Casino-Free Tyre spokesperson Desiree Dawley said the casino will ultimately drive out local businesses and forever change the character of small-town Tyre.

"The town is an agricultural district and you’re now going to bring 9,000 people to a town of 900 and pretend that it’s not going to affect the town in any way, shape or form," Dawley asked.

That is a starkly different vision from the one state Assemblyman Joe Morelle painted at the event.

"It’s been a long time since people have come to our region for economic opportunity, but I think there’s a sense of revitalization and hope," Morelle said. "Today’s announcement is really emblematic of what’s happening here."

Tyre town Supervisor Ron McGreevy said the casino will be a turning point for the economically depressed region.

"Lago will provide the spark needed to bring growth and prosperity back to our area, which will begin to lessen the ever increasing tax burden on the residents of Tyre and Seneca County," McGreevy said.

Lago officials say the casino could create as many as 1,800 construction jobs and another 1,800 full-time positions. Although there is a pending court decision on the casino's environmental impact, Lago is expected to open in spring of 2017.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.