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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Is Schenectady Casino in the Bag?

Hi.  Hope everyone had a great holiday!

As I'm sure you know by now, the next meeting of the location board, scheduled for December 17, is expected to produce the announcement of its recommendations as to who to license for up to four casinos in the state.  And let's emphasize again that these will be exactly that: recommendations to the Gaming Commission, which will ultimately decide whether or not to issue the licenses accordingly.  It's not an insignificant point, considering that the last two big decision processes of this sort that we've covered here over ten years of being Left at the Gate ended with a twist:  Governor Paterson himself selected AEG to get the Big A racino, but it ended up with Genting; and, an Ad Hoc Committee selected Excelsior Racing to get the racing franchise in 2006, but Governor Spitzer ultimately went back to NYRA (a longer and more complex story to be sure).

In a concerted push for the Hard Rock proposal in Rensselaer, just outside of Albany at the Amtrak station, mayor Dan Dwyer and some 30 other elected officials gathered at the site on Wednesday to announce their support.

What impact the announcements will have on the selection process is unknown, said McDonald, of Cohoes, and a fellow Democrat, state Sen. Neil Breslin of Bethlehem.

With time running out, the group deemed it worth making the public effort within sight of the state Capitol. They brought in for support Democratic Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy of Albany and three retired state lawmakers: Republicans Roy J. McDonald, who represented Saratoga in the state Senate, and Bob Reilly of Colonie, who served in the Assembly, and Democrat Jack McEneny, who was an Albany assemblyman. [Albany Times Union
Additionally, Mayor Dwyer announced the completion of the previously-contemplated deal with Albany to pay the city $1.1 million annually from gaming revenue, and commit to job opportunities for residents.  Dwyer had previously insisted on exclusivity, which was thwarted when Albany Mayor Sheehan reached a similar, yet different, agreement with the Capital View project in East Greenbush.
Rensselaer's payments will come for the city's annual $5 million to $5.7 million host community payment, while the payment for East Greenbush would be made by the casino developer. The money from Rensselaer would go to the city's general fund. The East Greenbush developer would pay Capitalize Albany, the city's economic development wing. 
This above-linked-to Times Union piece serves to support those loud whispers we've been hearing that Schenectady has the inside track on this thing, and portrays this as a last ditch effort to persuade the Gaming Commission that Hard Rock is the best option.  Columnist Chris Churchill, writing for the same paper, goes further, writing that the notion that this is in the bag for Schenectady is "widespread amont insiders."
That suggests the deal between Albany and Rensselaer, officially announced Wednesday, could be a Hail Mary by a casino team that's desperate and realizing it's not going to win.

Or maybe, just maybe, the deal is a response to a whispered message from someone in state government that sounded something like this: "Listen, we want to give this to you. But you need to bolster your local support before we can."

As troubling as it would be for the integrity of the gaming commission's process, the second scenario seems as likely as the first. And that would mean Schenectady doesn't have the casino competition wrapped up after all. 
To me, the developers of the proposed Rivers Casino and Resort, on the shores of the Mohawk River in Schenectady, bring precisely the kind of concerns that has the potential, however slight one may believe it to be, to cause the kind of licensing issues that could lead to the type of twist we mentioned above.  Rush Street has received negative publicity over its involvement in the development of casino-type games aimed at kids; and has been the subject of intense criticism by the UNITE Here union over its labor practices. And Och-Ziff Capital Management, who would solely provide the funding, is a subsidiary of a company being investigated by the SEC for investments said to prop up the brutal reign of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.  [Ooops, they are actually the Hard Rock funding arm, sorry for the mixup.]

Churchill also criticizes Och-Ziff Capital for not being willing to make the payments to Albany itself, as Capital View is proposing for East Greenbush, rather than have it taken out of casino revenues that may otherwise flow to the city of Rensselaer.
Och-Ziff isn't even donating to the other newly announced sweetener of the proverbial pot: a pledge of $500,000 to build a dock for the Half Moon, the financially troubled replica ship. That money would come from the city of Rensselaer, along with casino partners Flaum Management and Capital District OTB.

2 Comments:

jk said...

The NIMBYs' are out in force in the home stretch.


http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/exclusive-foes-rip-1-5b-sterling-forest-casino-bid-article-1.2038717

EXCLUSIVE: Gambling giant Genting faces fierce opposition to $1.5B bid for casino in Sterling Forest
The company’s proposal is not only the most expensive of the 16 proposed gaming resorts competing for a New York license, but also the most controversial — generating 3,428 letters and emails to state gaming officials about Sterling Forest as of Wednesday.

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