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Bonnie Castle Downs racino project not dead

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ALEXANDRIA BAY — Owners of the Bonnie Castle Recreation Center near Interstate 81 say the proposed racino — a harness racetrack with a casino — project is not dead and that an updated application will be submitted to the state this week.

With the financial backing of a casino development company, owners Marc J. Fernandez, Baldwinsville, and his father-in-law, Donald E. Cole, proposed in 2011 a $140 million harness track and casino project that also included a hotel.

Now that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is pushing for up to three new casino developments upstate, Mr. Fernandez said, the partners are working on “updated applications for 2013” that they will file soon with the state Racing and Wagering Board, still pursuing a racino license.

“We are working with Albany and local (officials) on our plan for Alexandria Bay. I strongly believe the north country needs this to help attract tourism and for job growth that will come with that,” he said.

The casinos proposed by the governor in his State of the State address are not yet legal. Non-Indian casinos would take an amendment to the state constitution. The first part of that process was accomplished when the Legislature passed such an amendment last year. For the amendment to be ratified, it will have to be approved by this Legislature, then approved by the voters in a statewide referendum.

The Route 12 property is just off of I-81 near the last exit before the Thousand Islands Bridge leading into Canada.

Owners of the aging facility, which ran into financial trouble last year that led to the loss of a lease with the Privateers ice hockey team, previously had planned an “upscale racino” with a harness-racing track, a 30,000-square-foot casino with video lottery machines, a nightclub and a 125-room hotel.

At that time, they said the development would create 400 full-time jobs in addition to 600 jobs for the construction work.

Mr. Fernandez said more details on the plan will be made available as the partners move forward with their application.

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