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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

East Greenbush Board Member Having Second Thoughts on Casino Vote

 - For those of you looking for horse racing content, I'm blogging regularly over at the TimeformUS blog.  I wrote most recently, about the Haskell, here.

September 8-9 are the days set for the presentations by the 17 casino applicants to the New York Gaming Commission.  I guess they're gonna be pretty short and sweet.  The 9th is also primary day in the state, if that means anything.  There will be public hearings in each of the three regions slated for a casino on Sept 22-24, but specific dates/sites have not yet been announced.

In East Greenbush, the town just outside of Albany where Saratoga Harness and Churchill Downs hope to build their Capital View casino (and where a suit against the project has been filed by the feisty opposition group there), one of the Town Board members who had voted, along with the rest of its members, to pass the resolution supporting the facility has now withdrawn her support.  Mary Ann Matters is calling on her colleagues to do the same.  Ms. Matters contends that the developers have pulled a bait-and-switch on the town, downsizing the hotel from an original 300 rooms to a 100 room facility.  What was widely presumed to be a 4-star hotel is actually, as stated in Capital View's Executive Summary, a 3-star hotel.....that as opposed to Saratoga Harness' proposed casino in Newburgh, a 4-star hotel with 300 rooms with the ability to expand to 500. 

“To add insult to injury, we have yet to be told by the developer how the downsizing of this project will impact the previously forecasted revenues, jobs and prospect of lower property taxes,” [Ms. Matters] said. [Troy Record]
Morgan Hook, the spokesperson for the developers, acknowledges that there have been "some adjustments to our proposal to accommodate and protect local business interests," but maintains that "we have engaged with every member of the Town Board and provided them with a full and detailed account of what our proposal is and will be."

Mary Ann Matters counters that it is simply not true that the entire board has been informed.  And since she is a member of that board, she would probably know.  My information is that she and the board did know about an intermediate downsize of the hotel from 300 to 150 rooms prior to the binding resolution vote.....but only because they attended a presentation by the developer.  Only when the Executive Summary was released was it learned of the further downsize.  Additionally, I've been told, Ms. Matters says that there have been downsizes to a covered parking area and to the entertainment facilities (the latter of which could perhaps be due to an agreement with the Upstate Theaters for a Fair Game). 
Matters said it was only a few weeks after the vote when she realized the project had changed dramatically.  "We want what we were pitched back in April: a world-class destination resort casino, not a local casino that primarily features what seems like a gambling parlor," said Matters.  [Time Warner Cable News]
Sounds more like the existing local casino/gambling parlor at the Saratoga harness track.  In fact, the 100 rooms now planned for a hotel at Capital View is actually less than the 108 room hotel planned for Saratoga Casino and Raceway!

We don't expect a further response from Saratoga harness and Churchill Downs today.  They are busy working on finalizing a new partnership in which Churchill will take over management duties of the racino.  (They are already contracted to manage a casino in East Greenbush should they win a license.)
SHRI and CDI have also signed a binding term sheet and begun negotiations on a stock purchase agreement wherein CDI will purchase 25 percent of economic and voting interests of SHRI. In addition to its flagship Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs, NY, SHRI owns a controlling interest in Saratoga Casino Black Hawk in Black Hawk, CO; a 50% interest in a joint venture with Delaware North Companies to manage the Gideon Putnam Hotel and Resort in Saratoga Springs, NY and a minority interest in Ellis Park, a thoroughbred racing and instant racing machine facility in Henderson, KY. SHRI, together with its partner Rush Street Gaming, filed a second application for a New York casino in Newburgh, NY in the Hudson Valley-Catskills Region. [CNN Money]
So, that would get Churchill into the New York gaming market, for whatever that is truly worth, even if Saratoga harness gets a license in Newburgh instead...(and, as I've been saying, I will be absolutely stunned if they don't get one of the two.) well as a share of Kentucky-based Ellis Park, which is interesting. 
"We are very excited about the expansion of our relationship with Churchill Downs," said James D. Featherstonhaugh, Secretary and Chief Legal Officer of SHRI. "We look forward to a long and successful partnership between two iconic names in the racing and gaming world."
Feathers recycled that generous description of his B-list, at very best, company from the Executive Summary.

Following up on the post the other day about the worth of the benefits being promised to different host towns (in apparent inverse order of the towns' economic needs/desperation), the developers at the proposed Nevele site in the struggling Catskills region have outlined some of the goodies awaiting the towns of Ellenville and Wawarsing. 
A new anti-drug officer for the Ellenville school district, $100,000 annually for court operations in the town of Wawarsing and village of Ellenville and half the cost of a new ladder truck for the Ellenville Fire Department [lol - ed.] are among the benefits....Nevele Investors LLC also has agreed to grant a 5-mile easement across its property for the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and has promised to use all union labor in the first phase of its construction project, promote local cultural events and work closely with Family of Woodstock and the Family Health Institute to develop programs to address social impacts, including mental health and addiction, that sometimes are associated with gambling. [Daily Freeman]
A far cry to be sure from the millions being lavished by other developers on more affluent communities that don't necessarily need the help.  They get 'host agreements.'  The Nevele is offering a "community mitigation plan" and asking for tax breaks.  “We’ve got unrivaled community support. We are universally loved," said Nevele CEO Michael Treanor.