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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Casino Process Plods on Amidst Atlantic City Carnage

As you may have read, it was not a good holiday weekend in Atlantic City.  Two casinos shut down, and Trump Plaza closes in a couple of weeks. 

By mid-September, Atlantic City, which started the year with 12 casinos, will be down to eight, and almost 8,000 people will be out of work. [FOX]
And this carnage is the backdrop to the approach of next week's oral presentations by the casino hopefuls.  Good timing there.  One really has to wonder what the outcome would be should the casino referendum be voted on now......with fair language.  The idea that the amendment was for "the legislated purposes of promoting job growth" might prompt snickers at this point.

So, some of the bidders are now changing their tune.  Remember all that stuff about the casinos being "resort destinations" that will attract families from all over the Northeast for some good wholesome fun? 
New York's casino expansion was sold on the idea that it would draw tourists and their money upstate. Yet the developers now acknowledge that they need local gamblers to succeed.
"Times have changed," said Bill Walsh, the developer behind the $172 million Traditions Casino and Resort proposal in the state's Southern Tier. "People are looking for convenience. They don't want to drive five hours to get to a casino now. You need a primary market." [Albany Times Union]
Of course, in its Executive Summary, Traditions stated that it would "draw considerable traffic from the Pennsylvania market," and that "over half" of its projected 4,000 daily visitors would come from outside of Broome County.  Wonder what they'll say next week.  Mohegan Sun, hoping to build at the Concord, boasted of largesse in its Executive Summary; an over 800,000 square-foot full-service complex, with the majority of its customers to come from a 100-mile radius including NYC, Western Connecticut, Northern NJ, and NE Pennsylvania.  Now, its CEO Mitchell Etess says:
"You might figure: Build a bigger casino, you might have a better chance of winning.....But you have to look at the market size. You need the right-sized building that can operate efficiently."
They've already hinted at a smaller project under the assumption that Orange County will get one of the two licenses for the region.  And we've already seen Saratoga harness scale back the size of their proposed project in East Greenbush. 
“A lot of people think Atlantic City got hurt because of the increasing competition – and that’s certainly true,” says Izzy Posner, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton College in Galloway, N.J. “But the bigger story is that it wasn’t about competition, really, it was about a fundamental restructuring of what the business is, from ‘destination’ casinos in places like Nevada and Atlantic City, to more of a ‘convenience’ type of place.”
“It’s not just a question of building a better mousetrap, one that’s more attractive or interesting.....I think it’s more about the mousetraps that are positioned near the mice, so that’s where you’re seeing some growth, especially within cities.” [Christian Science Monitor]
Not all of the developers are thinking smaller.  Caesars confirmed to the Times Union that they are going ahead with their $880 million plan and not scaling back.  Of course, their casino would be in Woodbury, just 50 miles north of NYC, and right near the retail outlet mall there.  So they are positioned near a lot of mice.  (And suckers.)

As far as the more remote locations go, they talk about all of the benefits to the local community.  But if the mice are coming primarily from that community - which we really figured all along would be the case - then what will be the net benefit in the end?  More jobs - at least at first - but a whole lot of money diverted from local businesses to slot machines.....not even considering the matter of gambling addiction resulting from, or being exacerbated by, a casino around the block.

 - The Save East Greenbush group has amended their legal complaint with respect to the crass conflict of interest of one of the Town Board members who voted for the resolution supporting the casino.  Sue Mangold has since recused herself due to the fact that her brother stands to gain from the real estate transactions; but she only did so when called out by the casino opponents (even though it was acknowledged in the application).  The suit now seeks to invalidate the vote based on her participation.  It also adds some respondents who own land adjacent to the proposed site.

When we were up in Saratoga last week, I visited the East Greenbush site and met with one of the casino opponents who lives right nearby.  I have to tell you I was pretty taken aback.  When I'd seen the satellite image of the area (which I embedded in this post), it seemed like a street that was, though in a generally suburban area, across the street from a shopping mall and a Holiday Inn.  What that satellite image doesn't portray however, is that the street runs up a hill (thus, Thompson Hill Road, duh), completely isolating it from the main road.  This is strictly a quiet suburban street.  The idea of a casino plopped down in the middle of it is nothing less than mind-boggling....and, I'm sure, terrifying for the residents (at least the ones not making out by selling their parcels).  This is the spot.

Any of you who live in a similar setting should just try and picture it for yourselves, and imagine how you would feel.  Not only would there be a casino, but also an access road to be built directly to it from the main road down below.  Is there any wonder why the residents are so outraged?  Politics and the wishes of Governor Cuomo aside (for whatever that's worth), the siting board just has to realize that this is not an appropriate location for a commercial venture of any kind, no less a casino with 24/7 traffic and activity.  Jeez.

But meanwhile, Jimmy Feathers continues his efforts to destroy this community for his own enrichment by raising the ante in his bidding war with Rennselaer, in an attempt gain the endorsement of the city of Albany.  Capital View has countered Rennselaer's offer of $10 million with one for $11 million - an upfront $1 million payment in addition to another $1 million over each of the next ten years.  As opposed to the Rennselaer offer, which would come from the city's share of the revenues, this would come directly from the pockets of the developers.  In addition, the developers would "try" to ensure that 25% of the jobs go to Albany residents....which, considering that they have already pledged to shift jobs there from the Saratoga racino, probably wouldn't leave much for Troy or East Greenbush itself.....and "try" to spend $5 million with Albany businesses.  The Albany Common Council has also accepted the Rennselaer offer.....which Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan unsuccessfully tried to negotiate up by 2% a year in her shameless attempt to extract money and promises out of the two.  And remember, Albany's endorsement won't necessarily mean a thing in the end.  The Council is scheduled to meet again today.


Bonnie L. said...

Allen, thank you so much for speaking out on behalf of our community. We have been crying foul here in East Greenbush for a long time. So many issues have fallen by the wayside, by those who were supose to protect us from self serving politicians. Now we're being hit with the biggest FOUL in the history of our town. We are being treated like a commodity, to be sold to the highest bidder. Will our plea for help fall on deaf ears again? We are a small, affluent home town community. We want to stay that way. A casino will rip our town apart. HELP!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for actually seeing what one of many wrongs would come with this project if it is sited here. Albany would get many pluses and none of the minuses that would be left. Our town is far from a casino town and this site is even further from the place for it. Do not forget that a Girl Scout camp and a Montessori school also border this site. The zoning is residential buffer and does not fit with the towns plan for development. Funny what money, power and politics can do.

Bill said...

Alan - another spot on commentary. What I have learned is that all the disgusting greed, questionable ethics, back-room deals, manipulation, and power mongering transcend state and national level politics - they are alive and well in the small non-destination town of EG. Very discouraging and the voters have noticed.

Stephen said...

Your blogs are so so good. I try to pass them on to as many people as I can. Keep them coming!

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Alan, your writing is tremendous and your insights spot-on. Thanks for day-tripping to our humble town and seeing the Thompson Hill "site." Don't forget that the largest adjacent parcel to the would-be Capital View Casino is a 104-acre Girl Scout camp, which is enjoyed by thousands of girls, troop leaders and families each year. If a casino is built, will anyone send their daughters to sleep in a tent just down the hill? I think not. End result? Jimmy Feathers gets to make a generous (hah!) offer to buy that pristine parcel and expand his empire some more. Which might begin to explain the girth and capacity of the sewer line that now services Thomson Hill Road... which our Town quietly rushed into existence, months before we learned of a possible casino. Something sure stinks in East Greenbush!

Jim_C said...

Thank you,
This kind of unethical behavior has been going on for some time in are town, and it doesn't seem to matter what party they belong to. This casino issue is so wrong on so many fronts, but the powers that be in are town do not want to look at the simple facts. They have been bought and paid for by Feathers and his friends.