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August 01, 2014
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Would an Orange County casino mean none for Sullivan County?

Bob Kunis

The time is nearing for developers to submit their applications to build casinos in New York State.

The decision will impact upstate economic development like none other, particularly Sullivan County.

Allowing one, better yet, two casinos in our area will have the potential to revitalize the Catskills, which has experienced years of economic decline.

The way the law was written, this selection process is supposed to encourage the revitalization of areas of hardship in upstate New York and to promote the idea of regionalism here in the Catskill Mountains. A casino in Orange County does not meet the criteria and would serve to continue to halt economic growth in the neighboring upstate counties. Such a casino is not consistent with the constitutional intent of the gaming amendment or Gov. Cuomo’s wishes.

None of the developers asking for the opportunity to build a casino destination resort in Sullivan County, will build one here if one is allowed 50 miles south, closer to the New York City metropolitan area.

Orange County lies in the Hudson Valley and is not an upstate county or really part of the Catskill region. It sits 40 minutes from the George Washington Bridge and has become a huge commuting area for people who work in the city.

Orange County, like Rockland, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties to the north and Long Island to the east, is truly an affluent, downstate New York City suburb.

On the other hand, there is a strong case to award Sullivan County two casinos. For the last half century, we have endured great economic hardship as we continued to pursue the dream of casino gaming here as a means to revitalize our tourist economy.

We have the necessary tourism attributes and are ready to build a casino right away. There is a wealth of natural resources and existing properties that are not only shovel-ready but have achieved all the necessary approvals and contain all the amenities that are tantamount to providing world-class resort experiences.

No other county in the Catskill region can tout this.

Also, there’s no doubt that Sullivan County residents want casino gaming here. They overwhelmingly approved last Novembers’ proposition to legalize casinos.

Statewide, the largest plurality occurred in Sullivan County.

An important aspect of the many studies about the impact of casino gaming is education and how the educational community will deal with projected growth.

Sullivan County alone realized this early on and invited the schools to participate and incorporated and addressed their concerns.

Bottom line is that Sullivan County is poised and ready to move forward. Orange County is not.

Orange County casino applications should not be granted simply because it will negate all of the above. It is not consistent with the constitutional intent of the gaming amendment or Gov. Cuomo’s wishes.

More significantly, a casino in Orange County will most definitely thwart efforts to build casinos in the Catskills and further curtail investment in Sullivan County.

The case for two casinos in Sullivan County is very strong.

Sullivan County, not Orange County, is the only real choice in the selection process for two upstate casino destination resorts in the Catskill region.

[Bob Kunis is a lifetime resident of Sullivan County. He is a former educator and successful Sullivan County entrepreneur who was county legislator for District 8 in Sullivan County. He currently sits on the Monticello School Board.]