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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Morning Casino News and Notes

An effort is underway to overturn the local approval for Genting's Tuxedo casino proposal; part of a drive to block any casino from being constructed in Orange County.  Lawyer Michael Sussman intends to file a motion in the state Supreme Court.  A meeting of the "casi-NO Orange" group took place on Thursday night. 

Dennis Glassberg of Woodridge said there needs to be an investigation into how Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other officials talked of a Catskills casino, and then Orange got into the mix. [Times Herald-Record, limited free access]
As we noted in this post, Cuomo went as far as taking his day-after-the-election victory lap in Sullivan County, where he stated: “I think it is going to fundamentally change the economy of the Catskills.”  So, one would think that, should the Catskills not get at least one if not both casinos slated for the region, Cuomo would be facing some angry voters when he's up for re-election in November.  If, that is, the casino winners are announced before election day.  Gaming Commission director Robert Williams stated last week that it was too early to say if the casino winners will be announced before or after the election.

I'd surely be willing to wager that it comes after the election.  An announcement beforehand can only have negative repercussions for Cuomo; he doesn't figure to really gain any votes based on the decisions, but voters who are angry because a casino either has or has not been sited in their town will surely take it out on him.  No, Cuomo is not going to lose to the GOP candidate Rob Astorino.  But he wants to score as big of a margin of victory as possible given his larger political ambitions.  And, as we've pointed out on numerous occasions, the siting board is made up of people with varying degrees of ties to the governor.  We expect that, one way or another, Cuomo will make his feelings known, and that this board will be compliant.

There is already a legal bid underway to overturn the local approval in East Greenbush for the Capital View casino planned by Saratoga Harness/Churchill Downs.  The suit is partly based on the fact that the developers went ahead with the application without first having obtained an environmental review as required by SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act), as we explained in this post.  In a column in the Albany Times Union the other day,  James Flanigan, a former North Greenbush supervisor, discusses potential environmental issues that could doom the project
The proposed site for a casino and multi-story hotel is on a parcel over an aquifer, containing federal wetlands, adjacent to a Girl Scout camp, near an elementary school, zoned for low-density residential use and on a narrow residential street that dumps traffic onto an already congested section of state Route 4......Converting open fields to parking lots and rooftops will generate storm water that could inundate residences, shopping centers and neighboring communities.
He also notes that the developers treated the project "as an elaborate public relations effort," noting the hiring of Morgan Hook from the prestigious and powerful lobbying firm SKDKnickerbocker.  We saw Hook's name in the meeting notes attached as Exhibit B to the Save East Greenbush lawsuit (also discussed in this post), with the notation that the PR team will "take the heat," and that they should "do just one" public meeting - "any more continues to promote 'negative side.'"

It's surely no coincidence that Hook and SKDKnickerbocker ended up on the Capital View team.  Previously, he was the spokesperson for Destination Saratoga, the short-lived organization funded by Saratoga Harness to promote a casino there.  The group told Saratoga residents just how horribly bad for the city it would be if a casino was awarded anywhere else in the region.  But then, of course, James Featherstonhaugh, the partner leading the casino bid for the company, had no compunction about picking up and bidding to be that casino located elsewhere in the region that would so damage the town economically. No matter to Feathers if it was to be located near a girl scouts camp and a school in a place described by opponents as a 'nice little residential town;' one with an obviously passionate groundswell of revulsion to the idea.

It's quite apparent from the Exhibit B notes that Feathers was personally and intimately involved with the town board's effort to control and manipulate the messaging; for example, addressing the "myths" of casinos ("Biggest type of addict is sports gamblers"). Surely wouldn't be surprised if it was his and/or Hook's idea to hold the resolution vote in a room far too small to accommodate those who wished to speak out against it.

While I surely hope that commenter Bonnie L, who, along with another reader, left a thoughtful comment on the last post regarding their concerns about a casino in East Greenbush, is correct in that the board will "do their due diligence in examining all materials they delivered in a fair, unbiased manner," I surely have my doubts that that will be the case.  It's been my contention all along that Cuomo cut a deal with the New York Gaming Association to gain their support for the referendum (they were for it before they were against it before they were for it), and that Feathers, the president of the group at the time, is therefore a mortal lock to get a license for his Saratoga Harness group, be it in Newburgh or East Greenbush.  As pointed out above, the siting board is made up of gentlemen likely to be amenable to whatever the governor wants and needs.

 - In the Executive Summary for Greenetrack's proposed casino near Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, NY....after stating how they "believe in the local community" that this Alabama-based company doesn't know from a hole in the wall.....they tout the presence of Michael Malik, with "more than 25 years of experience as a casino developer," on their team.  "Mr. Malik...directed a ballot effort to bring casino gaming to Detroit, Michigan."  Partly as a result of his efforts, there are three casino resort facilities in the city that has filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. So, quite clever of Greenetrack to point that out to the Gaming Commission.


Figless said...

Just wanted to commend you on your work here, you would make an excellent investigative journalist. These documents are not light reading and your summarizing of the major points is priceless.

Shedding light on these matters is important, even if the comments are few.

kyle said...

While Detroit's casinos couldn't help the city from falling into bankruptcy, I'm sure their water features provide an invaluable resource for the 50% of residents who are unable or unwilling to pay their water bills.

Glenn S. said...

I second Figless' commendation of your work - please keep digging and reporting. The currents of cash swirling around these casino projects run deep. Your efforts are being noticed.

The artificially short timetables imposed on the communities to act on the casino proposals is just another indication that we are being snowballed into making quick decisions with insufficient and incomplete information. This is reckless and unforgivable. The East Greenbush town board is already making concessions for the Capital View casino by allowing them more time to submit their application for a change in zoning that they need for their absurd project. This board has already demonstrated that they don't care what the residents of East Greenbush think, but I have no doubt that they will get another ear full at the next board meeting on July 16.

August Song said...

Excellent expose', Alan!!!

jk said...

Rough sledding for the former AEG poster boys....

It could be pack-up time for two allegedly crooked pols — indicted state Sens. John Sampson, of Brooklyn, and Malcolm Smith, of Queens, who both face stiff Democratic primary challenges, new Board of Election filings show.

Sampson and Smith were once powerful leaders in the state Senate until scandals rocked their futures.