RSS Feed for this Blog

Monday, February 24, 2014

Upstate Creeping Downstate

Orange County has become the subject of attention of casino companies that are interested in its proximity to New York City.

Three of the industry's biggest players have made multiple site visits to locations in Orange County that they're targeting for a potential casino, [County Executive Steve] Neuhaus said. [Recordonline]
Penn National and Cordish are two of them.  Orange is officially included in the Catskills/Hudson Valley region which is slated for two casinos.  It's generally assumed that at least one, for sure, and quite possibly both will be sited in the Catskills region, in Sullivan County.  However, as you can see below, Orange County is around half the distance from NYC than is Ellenville, home of the Nevele, one of the Catskills casino hopefuls.

Not surprisingly, Nevele owner Michael Treanor is having none of this.
"Yes, the economics of putting one in Orange County are very compelling....But it's not going to happen because the legislative intent of the act (that allows the casinos) is what its name says, The Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act. Orange is not upstate." 
Hmmm. Well, I'd say that's a matter of perspective.  To many of us here in New York City, upstate is anything north of Yonkers Raceway. And however one would define it, the act that Treanor cites does quite specifically, in section 1310, include Orange County as an eligible zone. So I think the Nevele owner is rather nervous about this, and one can't blame him.  As Treanor says himself, the economics are very compelling.

On the other hand, Woodbury, the location that Penn National is looking at, is only 48 minutes from Yonkers, and would obviously pose a major competitive threat to their VLT's.  So, if the NYGA has anything to say about the siting (as I've been assuming they will), you can bet that both casinos slated for that region will be located in the Catskills.  But we'll see.

Things will heat up in New York in the next few months to be sure; but most of the really good action is taking place in Massachusetts these days. It's always with keen anticipation that I check in for the latest developments there. And it rarely disappoints.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is under scrutiny once again. This committee has been putting the casino aspirants under the most meticulous scrutiny.  Caesars World operates casinos in 13 states plus Ontario.  But it was forced to withdraw from its Suffolk Downs plan due to a business relationship with a person alleged to have family members involved in organized crime outside the US.

Yet this commission seems to have far more lax standards with respect to itself.  We've discussed the fact that Stephen Crosby, the chairman, is a former business partner of a landowner who stands to profit greatly if the Boston area casino is awarded to Steve Wynn in Everett; and that he even contacted Wynn by phone when he was getting cold feet.  (Caesars is suing the commission over this obvious conflict of interest.)

Now we learn that the MGC is quite footloose and fancy-free when it comes to its travel and entertainment.
Examples of the commission’s extreme spending are many, ranging from a state police officer’s one-way flight from Hong Kong to Boston for $7,257 to a $5,550-per-month housing allowance for top executives to more than $78,000 in parking benefits provided to commission employees in Boston. That parking perk, according to state law, is prohibited at Massachusetts agencies that receive taxpayer funding.

Other charges are of a more personal nature. One commission employee used her agency-issued Bank of America credit card to order from an online wedding-goods vendor. Another employee used his card to buy a $423 iPad. Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby treated a colleague to a $110 visit to a wine bar in Singapore, while Zuniga charged $422 to Plaza Limousine, the self-proclaimed preferred car service for the Boston Red Sox and local VIPs. [Masslive]
Crosby himself is said to be a particularly frequent user of the company meal card.
On a recent trip to Asia, Crosby recorded 10 food-related room charges during a five-night stay at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Hong Kong. The total cost for those meal charges — not including nine visits to the mini bar that Crosby covered out of pocket — was $565, according to his room receipt.
A board member cited the urgency of their mission, and last-minute meetings with gaming types who bounce around "from one exotic gaming location to the next."  And the MGC points out that they are not spending taxpayer money but, rather, they are being reimbursed by the casino companies as part of the application process.  Well, as far as I'm concerned, that actually can raise bigger questions about exactly who is reimbursing whom for what!  And, I think it's all really besides the point.
Inspector General Glenn Cuhna said: “The Gaming Commission is a public agency. It was created by the Legislature to oversee the casino industry on the public’s behalf. Even though it does not have a line item appropriation in the budget, the commission and its staff should still establish and follow rules and standards that ensure public money is spent appropriately.” [Bizjournals]
I still can't get over the conflict of interest thing.  These guys are too much; and who exactly is responsible for overseeing this commission anyway?  It seems as if they operate in their own little kingdom.  I'm pretty confident that the head of the New York siting committee won't be a former business partner of Michael Treanor, and that they won't be doing much traveling to the Far East.

As Tuesday's vote in Revere draws near, supporters and opponents were out to promote their causes.
About 200 people opposing a proposed Mohegan Sun casino walked from the Immaculate Conception Church to Revere City Hall this afternoon, led by a Salvadorian marching band. [Boston .com]
Yeah, I was waiting for someone to whip out the Salvadorian marching band.  Both sides are expressing optimism; the field organizer for Mohegan Sun is predicting a rout.
“I think we gained a little momentum this time because the deal is more lucrative......I’d be surprised if we don’t get 64 percent.”  Limoli, who said he has mobilized 200 campaign workers to drive voters to the polls and work the phone banks Tuesday, faulted the opposition’s anti-gambling message.

“Revere doesn’t see gambling as the bogeyman. We grew up with Wonderland (Greyhound Park) and the racetrack at Suffolk Downs,” he said.
Well, to that I would say that I think there's quite a difference between the couple of race tracks running nine races a few days a week for a few months out of the year (without simulcasting, when he was growing up), and a casino that's open 24/7.

Tuesday's vote won't be the only big decision in the state this week.  On Friday, the MGC is slated to select the operator and site for the one slots-only parlor that is allowed by the casino law.  There are three applicants, including Penn National, which is proposing a facility at the Plainridge harness track.  If accepted, it would keep that racetrack open. Otherwise...
“This is a one and done deal,” said Billy Abdelnour, president of the New England Amateur Harness Drivers Club. “This will literally end, finish harness racing, because there is no one waiting in line to build a racetrack in Massachusetts.” [WBZ]
The other bidders are Raynham Park, a former dog track which says it would conduct a 40-day harness meeting at the Brockton Fairgrounds, and Cordish, which has no racing-related plans at all.

1 Comment:

jk said...

Lots of news regarding the Big A, no benefit to racing fans from the casino largess next door.

The beaten track: Aqueduct was once a racing jewel that packed them in, but now The Big A is a den in disrepair

February 23, 2014 2:05 AM
Whoa Nelly! Thief swipes pricey 1985 Breeders' Cup from Aqueduct Racetrack