NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Several upstate New York communities seeking new Las Vegas-style casinos as an economic boost are a step closer to seeing their hopes fulfilled now that voters have approved a statewide referendum expanding casino gambling.
The approval of Proposition 1 in Tuesday’s voting allows for the building of four non-American Indian-owned upstate casinos in the Southern Tier near Binghamton, the Catskills and Mid-Hudson Valley region, and the Saratoga Springs-Albany area.
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported Wednesday, casino supporters feel like they have finally drawn a winning hand in the depressed communities of the Catskills.
“We got two hours of sleep last night because we were dancing in the streets once we heard the proposition,” said state Sen. John Bonacic (R-Middletown).
Leaders in places such as Monticello in Sullivan County had backed the referendum as a way to reverse the area’s economic decline since the heyday of the Catskills resort era ended.
“It will bring the hotel business back, and it will give employment,” voter Aaron Ziegelman said.
“The beauty of the whole thing is it’s going to go into the state educational fund, the profits, so the whole state’s going to really benefit,” said James Cahill of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the passage of Proposition 1 a big win and a “game changer” for local governments, school districts and taxpayers across New York State.
“This vote will keep hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year in neighboring states right here in New York, while increasing revenue for local schools, lowering property tax taxes, and bringing proper regulation to the industry,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Two of the four casinos are expected to be built in the Catskills, where three development teams want to build in Sullivan County and one is ready to roll the dice in Ulster.
Nevele Investors, a subsidiary of Claremont Partners Ltd. is the new owner of the Nevele Resort, Casino and Spa – which closed in 2009. The firm has $500 million to restore the faded glory of the resort.
“That could all come back,” said Michael Treanor of Claremont Partners. “The area is going to boom again with great tourism.”
Treanor said if he plays his cards right, a Nevele resort casino could be up and running in three years, 90 miles from Manhattan.
“We will be the closest Casino to Central Park,” Treanor said.
The plan will require the state Gaming Commission to work quickly to appoint a panel to select casino locations and developers.
“Now we’re going into a selection process that is going to be contentious, I am sure, but I’m very confident in the Nevele. We’ve got great community support, a great plan, we think we’re going to get a license,” Treanor said.
The state Gaming Commission will investigate the background and finances of the casino applicants, and keep out the mob. The selected developers will have two years to build or risk losing multi-million dollar deposits.
Eventually, a total of seven casinos are expected to be licensed across the state, CBS 2’s Elise Finch reported.
Some residents said they would also like to see a casino built on Long Island, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported.
“I think it’d be nice for the area. It’d be a great economic stimulus,” one resident said.
“It will help Long Island a lot, generate jobs,” another resident said.
Opponents said the governor stacked the deck because the question on the ballot mentioned job growth, increasing aid to schools and lower property taxes, but not any potential downside.
“Shame on the Governor and his people for having such contempt for the voters that they would put this rigged language on the ballot,” said David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values.
This will be the largest one-time expansion of casinos in state history. Cuomo said it could raise $430 million in just one year.
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