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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Orange County Competition Thinning Catskills Field

Foxwoods has withdrawn from the casino competition, declining to pursue its proposed facility at the old Grossinger's resort in Liberty.  The company cites the competition from Orange County, saying that just the threat of competition so close to NYC has made it impossible to get their project financed.

“We always approached this project by assuming that there would be two casinos in the Catskills, but what we didn’t plan for, and cannot compete with, is a casino project in Orange County.” [Capitol Confidential]
This development ends the hope of Sullivan County officials of landing both casinos that are slated for the Catskills/Hudson Valley region, as the remaining two bidders in the county are both proposing to build at the Concord.  In a desperate attempt to demonstrate how badly the area needs at least one casino, the county recently released a fact sheet showing just how bad things are there.  Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson reacted quite bitterly to the news.
“The legislation was so clearly written for disadvantaged areas of the upstate region to revitalize tourism and economic development....Everything that it says screams Sullivan and parts of Ulster, the Ellenville area, so it is pretty crazy that the big developers came in and have convinced the people of Orange County that they can get a casino. I just don’t believe that is the way it should go or will go.” [Daily Freeman]
Well, I too have been saying and believing that, in keeping with the obvious spirit and intent of a law called the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act, the casinos would be sited upstate.  As in, upstate.  Not as in 40 miles north of NYC.  Perhaps that will ultimately be the case.  However, given the fact that nothing has been said nor done to dissuade Orange County bidders, one now wonders if there will be any bidders left standing in the Catskills other than perhaps the Genting-related Empire/EPR, who may not need outside financing to build its casino at the Concord.  A reader cleverly suggested that the Genting proposal in Tuxedo, NY is serving as a 'rabbit' to get Empire's Catskills competitors out of the running.  Left standing as of now, there are two remaining other than Empire; the Mohegan Sun/Cappelli project at the Concord, and the Nevele.

Michael Treanor, heading the Nevele's bid, is singing a different tune these days.  Back in November, before there was any hint of competition from Orange County, he told the NY Times: “We’ve got three banks willing to finance our project."  Now, he says:
“The possibility of a casino in Orange County definitely weighs heavily on financing for the Nevele....Our application is going to say if there’s a casino in Orange County, the Nevele won’t be building. But if the state wants to bring back the upstate economy, then Ulster and Sullivan are poster children for a casino. If the objective is for the state to make the most money, then plop it next to Woodbury Common.” [Times Herald-Record]
And making the most money is exactly the point, at least according to Orange County officials.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus issued a statement that read in part: “Casinos in Orange County can produce the most revenue and create the most jobs – the very purpose of the gaming law.”
I guess it's a matter of interpretation, but it seems to me that the purpose of the gaming law was to produce revenue and create jobs while also assisting areas upstate that urgently need an economic boost (for whatever it's ultimately worth).  When Cuomo announced the enabling law just about exactly one year ago, the accompanying press release from his office quoted him as saying that it would create "economic activity for local businesses and creating thousands of good paying jobs where we need it most.”  I don't believe he was referring to Woodbury.  In addition, right there in the governor's press release were these quotes:
Senator John Bonacic said, “For fifty years, the Catskills have sought gaming as a way to grow our tourism based economy. The gaming bill can create thousands of upstate jobs.."

Chair of the Racing and Wagering Committee and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow said, “Our agreement to bring casinos to the Catskills, the Southern Tier and the Capital Region is good for the local economy, the state economy and the people of New York."
You can't get anymore specific than those references to the Catskills. Again, this is direct from the governor's press release which was, we can presume, very closely vetted by his staff before being released.  After decades of false starts and disappointments, it seemed as if gaming was finally coming to the Catskills.  What could go wrong this time?

Well, apparently, it's the lure of more money for the state, the fate of these individual counties be damned. (And as always, I'll add the qualifier that the ultimate effectiveness of casinos in reviving these struggling areas will remain to be seen....if we indeed have an opportunity to remain and see.) Governor Cuomo could very well have put an end to the Orange County frenzy with a simple statement re-affirming what we all believed to be the original intent of the legislation, signaling that bidders in the Catskills region would be given priority in the selection process.  Or by having his Gaming Commission set requirements for Orange County that were financially prohibitive (if there's such a thing for Genting....though he could also have told Genting to lay off or forget about an eventual casino at the Big A).

But we've heard nothing from His Majesty at all.  So, the voters in the Catskills merrily went to the polls to approve the referendum with the belief - affirmed in writing in official releases from the governor's office itself - that the casinos would be sited there.  I imagine they would have voted differently it they thought or knew otherwise. They must be feeling betrayed by this governor.  They're surely not the first.  For one, they can join those of us who have watched as Cuomo, in order to suit his own political ambitions, has facilitated the arrangement in the Senate that empowered the minority Republicans and thereby thwarted progressive initiatives that are favored by the majority of voters.  It remains to be seen if they will be the last.

 - Saratoga harness and Churchill Downs unveiled a sketch of their proposed casino in East Greenbush, now to be called the Capital View Casino and Resort.

Oh yeah, that's attractive.  Fits right in with the general decor too.
 "Surrounded by tranquil ponds and flowing streams, Capital View Casino & Resort will boast an ambiance that builds on the natural beauty of the surrounding area. The stately Dutch Colonial building will reflect the architectural vision of early European settlers, who dreamed of a New Netherland. The regal estate will be the capstone of the surrounding countryside, replete with well-manicured formal gardens, a walking path and hand-tended vegetable and herb gardens that will supply fresh produce to the farm-to-table restaurants inside."
 Excuse me while I go throw up.


jk said...

Funny to have bidding for new casinos happening at the same time as Malcolm "AEG" Smith's fraud trial.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alan,

I forwarded your post with comments to a fellow Saratoga loving friend of mine in East Greenbush asking for her reaction. Yours are certainly none too kind, I think you are agin'it?! Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

Dear Alan,

You might offer them a spelling tutorial as a special favor. Then, it's sink or swim on their own. Green Mtn Punter

SaratogaSpa said...

So, the slot addicted drones are supposed to take a detour from the path out their car door to the front door of the casino to look at the home grown garden? Lets take some odds on that happening.