Panel Recommends Casinos For Sullivan, Schenectady And Seneca Counties

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Sullivan, Schenectady and Seneca counties have been selected as sites for casinos in upstate New York, a panel announced Wednesday, bringing an end to a fierce competition among 16 developers and job-hungry communities.

The Gaming Facility Location Board also decided not to recommend a possible fourth license amid an increasingly saturated gambling market in which consumers have more and more options closer to home. While casinos were once limited to Las Vegas, Atlantic City and a handful of tribal reservations, they have now opened in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island and several other states, and most Americans are within a few hours’ drive of a gambling facility.

Voters last year authorized up to four casinos in three upstate regions: the Albany-Saratoga area, the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region and the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley.

Les Kristt watched the announcement at a local pub with a crowd that quickly went from anxious to ecstatic.

“We were watching it on the big screen TV and everybody was just jumping up and down. We’re really happy here in Sullivan County,” Kristt told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.

The projects announced Wednesday:

— The Montreign Resort Casino is to be built in the Catskills town of Thompson on the grounds of the old Concord hotel. The $630 million project will come with an 18-story hotel, meeting spaces and an indoor waterpark. Its developer, Empire Resorts, operates through a subsidiary, the nearby Monticello Casino & Raceway.

— The Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in the city of Schenectady will be part of a larger redevelopment effort at a formerly blighted riverfront site. The $300 million development will include a hotel, a high-end steakhouse and more than 1,100 slot machines.

— Lago Resort & Casino, a $425 million project in the Finger Lakes town of Tyre in Seneca County, will include 2,000 slot machines. Lago, which was the largest contender in the Finger Lakes-Southern Tier region, is named for the Italian word for “lake.”

“What we’ve tried to do is build a project that is going to attract people apart from just the casino gamer, people are going to come up for other reasons,” Charles Degliomini said, executive vice president for the developer Empire Resorts.

“What we’ve tried to do is build a project that is going to attract people apart from just the casino gamer, people are going to come up for other reasons,” Charles Degliomini said, executive vice president for the developer Empire Resorts.

Applicants submitted 16 bids for licenses. With its proximity to New York City, the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley attracted the most interest, with nine bidders.

“The economy of Sullivan County, as well as the entire mid-Hudson region, is going to change,” Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

Local business owners were excited by the prospect of economic growth.

“Since the demise of the major hotel businesses here we’ve had a lot of people that needed jobs and we haven’t been able to get that happening until now,” Randy Resnick said.

Land near the formerly swanky Concord Resort, where Big Apple vacationers once made their memories will be reborn as Adelaar.

The resort will feature Montreign Casino, an 18-story Vegas style hotel casino with 61 table games and more than 2,000 slot machines.

It will also create thousands of jobs, and as developers pointed out it’s more than just a casino.

“A water park, an entertainment village, a new golf course redesigned by Rees-Jones, it’s about bringing people to come back to the Catskills,” Manny Pearlman, Empire Resorts said.

Bill Rieber, the Town of Thompson Supervisor wants to see shovels in the ground soon.

“They’ve got all town approvals at this point so they’re really ready to go. They’re literally ready now,” he said.

The board decided not to recommend any sites in New York City’s suburban Orange County, where developers concentrated proposals.

There were six plans on the table in Orange County, including Caesars in Woodbury and the Sterling Forest plan in Tuxedo.

Some had voiced strong opposition to bringing a casino to Orange County.

“It is not an appropriate site for many environmental reasons,” said Peter Bush, who has been active with No Tuxedo Casino, told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane. “I wanted the sanctity of wilderness and habitat. I didn’t come up here to have this become a casino town.”

Ellenville Mayor Jeff Kaplan, who rooted for the Nevele Hotel in Ulster County, said “If we’re really looking to get the resort business back in the Catskills then putting a casino in Orange County is really suicide.”

The board pored over 75,000 pages of application materials, heard from more than 400 people during public comment sessions and received more than 3,000 written comments over several months before it made its decision. Members of the panel said they were looking for the best project that would have the most significant economic impact on struggling communities.

The casinos were intended to bring jobs and tourism to economically struggling areas of the state. The three regions were picked to spread out the benefits — and to avoid competition with existing tribal casinos.

The board’s decision isn’t the final step. Background checks and environmental reviews will be completed, and the licenses must be formally awarded by the state’s Gaming Commission. There’s also the possible threat of lawsuits from local opponents concerned about traffic, environmental effects, zoning and the effects of expanded gambling.

Bidders for the licenses and their allies spent more than $11 million on lobbying and campaign donations in 2012 and 2013, according to an analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group. Reports for 2014 are incomplete but show millions more in lobbying expenses. Lobbying efforts in cities of fewer than 50,000 people aren’t counted because they’re exempt from state reporting rules.

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