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Casino ready to roll

Paul Wilmot cannot remember in his lifetime a private project between Rochester and Syracuse as big as the $440 million del Lago Resort & Casino. The venue, which opens Wednesday, is expected to draw some 7,000 people each day.

Wilmot, president of Wilmorite Construction LLC, said del Lago will go a long way to putting the area on the map. He is happy with the finished product.

“It’s actually exceeded what we presented,” he said.

The grand opening of the site, some 50 miles southeast of Rochester off state Thruway Exit 41 in the Seneca County town of Tyre, marks the continued progress of the project, which has stayed on time and on budget, said Jeff Babinski, executive vice president and general manager.

The casino is to feature 2,000 slot machines and 85 gaming tables, including 10 poker tables.

It is being developed by Wilmorite Management Group LLC in Scottsville and Peninsula Pacific, a Los Angeles-based investment manager.

The resort and casino was awarded a New York casino license in December 2015.

The wait, however, has been substantially longer, given that Wilmorite—led by Chairman Thomas Wilmot Sr. —has wanted to build a casino in Upstate New York for more than a decade and a half.

“We’ve been trying to do a casino in the state for probably 16 years,” Paul Wilmot said. “We’ve been very excited the legislation passed and excited to have the opportunity to compete.”

Thomas Wilmot Jr., Wilmorite senior vice president who was involved in the development of the casino, said one of his favorite things about the project is its location.

“We’re incredibly proud of the process and hope everyone in the region is as proud of the attraction we’ve built and the business we’re running here,” said Thomas Wilmot Jr., who is also on del Lago’s board of directors. “The fact that we were able to do one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting, project we’ve ever done right here in our backyard, is something.”

When complete, the venue will have some 1,800 workers, with the majority living in Seneca and the surrounding counties. There is also room for job advancement, Paul Wilmot said.

To date, the venue has nearly 1,500 workers, Babinski said. Some 20 percent of the workers are from Seneca County and another 15 percent live in Ontario County. The majority of the rest come from Cayuga, Monroe, Onondaga and Wayne counties.

There are roughly 35 employees from the Rochester area, Babinski noted. Most of them have said they will use the vanpool program offered by del Lago, the city of Rochester and vRide Inc., which provides rides to and from the site for employees.

Under the partnership, the city will subsidize the cost of the service to del Lago Resort & Casino users, with the monthly cost less than $75 per rider.

Del Lago’s 205-room hotel, banquet facility and spa will open next summer, which will boost employment at the venue by some 300 workers, Babinski said.

The Wilmots acknowledge the process was not an easy one. Hurdles ranged from having the legislation move through the state government, to competing for the bid, to waiting to get the license that would allow work to begin.

And then there were the lawsuits.

The Wilmot brothers were surprised at the volume of opposition. While community members voiced concerns such as how the site would affect the environment and traffic, nearby gaming venues also said del Lago would hurt their businesses.

Proponents pointed to the economic potential of the distressed area. Del Lago officials estimate the venue will generate more than $90 million annually for state and local government.

Throughout the process, the Wilmots did not waver.

“We continued to move forward and never thought this would not happen,” Paul Wilmot said.

It took a year and two days from erecting the first piece of steel at the site to achieving the certificate of occupancy, he noted.

“We knew we had a good site, we knew that we had put together a very good environmental report and we knew we would pass the legal challenges,” Paul Wilmot said.

The developers expect additional development to sprout up around the del Lago site, noting the area has been eyed as a commercial corridor by county and town officials.

For opening day, the venue is taking steps to handle the expected traffic. There will be overflow parking for employees, so guests will have ample room to park.

Del Lago representatives are working with law enforcement agencies and are keeping an eye on traffic from the Thruway. If traffic gets backed up because of people traveling from the Rochester area, for example, those vehicles will be directed to get off at Exit 42 (Geneva) and follow signs directing them to del Lago.

In addition to the slot machines and gaming tables, also opening on Wednesday are:

 Portico by Fabio Viviani, which offers diners a take on old-world Italian-inspired foods and handmade pastas, as well as seafood, steaks and chops grilled over hardwood;

 Farmer’s Market Buffet, offering locally sourced produce, fruits, dairy products and meats;

 The Vine, a 2,400-person entertainment venue that also serves as a separate restaurant/bar;

 Centrifico, a bar and lounge area located in the center of the gaming floor;

 Savor New York—MacKenzie-Childs at del Lago, a 2,000-square-foot store featuring MacKenzie-Childs and Jay Strongwater products, as well as a selection of products made by companies based in the Finger Lakes, including wineries, breweries, spirits and cheesemakers; and

 A 4,200-square-foot food court with three restaurants, including Finger Lakes-based Ciccino’s Pizzeria & Paninoteca, locally owned Smashburger and Moe’s Southwest Grill restaurants.

Jeff Shipley, president and CEO of the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce, said del Lago’s impact already has been felt in the community. Contractors working on del Lago have been staying in area hotels and eating at local restaurants, he said.

Shipley expects that growth will continue once del Lago opens.

“The casino has the potential to elevate the tourism profile for the entire Finger Lakes gateway region,” Shipley said. “Ultimately, the goal is to create jobs and grow the economy. We believe the casino will continue to play a strong role in helping achieve those results.”

The developers stressed the importance of incorporating elements from area businesses at the site and beyond. As a Players Club member at del Lago, for example, participants can redeem points they earn not only at the resort, but at businesses throughout the Finger Lakes region.

“We want to be good partners with local businesses,” Paul Wilmot said. “We don’t want people to just come to del Lago; we want them to go out and see what the Finger Lakes has to offer. That’s been our message from day one and we will continue with that message.”



A story in the Jan. 27 issue contained two errors. Del Lago features 89 gaming tables, including 12 poker tables. The venue employs some 144 workers from Monroe County.

1/27/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]


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