The Albany Times-Union checks in with an editorial opposing Genting's proposed casino in Tuxedo. The editorial, quite appropriately, accuses Genting of "attempting to bypass the deliberations and virtually buy a state casino license" with its "outlandish" $450 million cash offer for what is a $70 million license fee, and its brash offer to "write you a check today."
Consider how the change in the state's constitution to legalize these full-blown casinos was sold to voters. Recall the controversially favorable — some say unfairly promotional — wording of the ballot proposition last November. It unequivocally stated casinos were intended for "promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated."The editorial goes on to note that Tuxedo and the surrounding area do not at all qualify as a struggling region; neighboring Tuxedo Park has a median income of over $91,000.
Backers portrayed casinos as a panacea for New York's most economically distressed regions, providing jobs and spurring other development. They conjured images of rundown and abandoned resorts in the Catskills and a second lease on life for the struggling region.
Meanwhile, an environmental group is pledging to "bury" Genting in lawsuits should a license be granted to them. Whether that in itself acts as a deterrent to the location board picking them remains to be seen...but considering the fact that community support is supposed to be one of the criteria, I don't see why it shouldn't. There are 16 bidders, and I myself know of only four that have attracted an active opposition - East Greenbush, Tuxedo, Schenectady, and Tyre. (I'd be more than happy to receive word of any others.) So, it seems to me that there are plenty of options that would better satisfy the community support requirement. And I don't see why the board would make a selection that is likely to be tied up in the courts....unless it finds the riches that Genting is promising too much to resist. Which is surely a possibility.
Sterling Forest Partnership opposes the proposed $1.5 billion casino because it is located on privately owned land surrounded by Sterling Forest, a 22,000-acre state park that was created in 1998 after concerted efforts by environmentalists. The group believes a casino of that size would disturb the environment, and a proposed Exit 15B off the Thruway would bring too much traffic to the area. [Times Herald-Record]As we mentioned, there was an anti-casino contingent from Tuxedo at the presentation last Tuesday, and Genting at least acknowledged their presence; that as opposed to Saratoga Raceway and Casino, whose Rita Cox feigned ignorance of the roots of the opposition in East Greenbush. Genting says they will work with opponents, and they're making a lot of promises as to how they will assuage environmental concerns; they'll treat runoff, they'll protect wildlife, they'll use low lighting that won't disturb the views. And to that, I'll remind you that Genting pledged to "work closely with NYRA to transform [Aqueduct] into a casino and racetrack that will be the envy of the country.” Yet, we were told at a NYRA board meeting by then president Ellen McClain in December, 2012 that Genting failed to follow through on a promise to keep the racing side of the plant clean - NYRA took over maintenance in 2013 - and repeatedly delayed groundbreaking on the Longshots bar which finally opened in April.
Now, I don't know that we could expect the gentlemen on the location board to be quite that fully immersed in the details and history of all this (although, why shouldn't they be); but I sure would have liked to have heard them question Genting about past broken promises instead of being so concerned about golf courses, proposing hypothetical scenarios that are not going to happen (such as two casinos in the Southern Tier), and asking rote questions about financing, the answers to which are either already in the applications or easily attainable at another time. Kevin Law told the folks in the yellow shirts to come back for the public comment sessions later in the month; and it's indeed the public that will have to ask the kind of incisive questions that we, for the most part, did not hear last week.
And as far as those lavish illustrations of what Sterling Forest will look like? I might also take that with a grain of salt. Here's the original illustration of what the Aqueduct racino was supposed to look like:
And here is what it actually looks like now:
I was very excited about the big water fountain. Guess it dropped out of the plan at some point, along with the trees and the shrubs and that big tower thing that looks like the Chrysler building. Anyone who was familiar with the old Aqueduct footprint knows that, for all the supposed glitz, it is really a relatively cosmetic change from the original. May be a small point. But the devil is in the details, and should Genting be granted the license to build this thing, I'd bet that it won't be quite as spectacular and glamorous as they portray it to be now.