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December 28, 2014
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Casino dreams inch along


MONTICELLO, NY — With Gov. Andrew Cuomo having now appointed three members of the siting committee that will determine the location of the first four casinos in the state, talk about who will receive the coveted licenses has begun at the local level.

At a meeting of the Community and Economic Development Committee at the Sullivan County government center on February 6, there was a lengthy discussion about the likelihood that one or two casinos will eventually be coming to Monticello.

Marc Baez, CEO of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency, noted that there had been talk that casino revenue might be coming in quickly. But he wrote in an article published in an Albany newspaper that the only way to achieve that would be to add a building quickly to an existing Racino, such as Mighty M Gaming in Monticello, and that was not what the legislation intended.

Legislator Alan Sorensen said there about six or seven casino projects that will be vying for a casino license in Sullivan County. He said, “Anyone who applies for a license will need a municipal resolution of support in order to submit the application.” There was discussion about whether this resolution would come from the county, the town, or both.

In any case, Sorensen said, “We need to start talking through these issues. I’m not comfortable taking a shot-gun approach and just giving a resolution of support to anyone who comes through the door. But there are clearly those entities who have established a track record and have met certain milestones, and there are other ones that arrived yesterday.”

Legislator Kathy LaBuda noted that the Town of Mamakating had passed a resolution on February 4, saying that it would support a casino resort on the former side of the Shawanga Lodge, which burned in 1970. The board said it would support the development as long as various environmental and other considerations were taken into account.

LaBuda said it would be important to know whether a resolution of support from the town would carry more weight than a resolution from the county. LaBuda said that, as a county legislator, her vote would be for the Empire Resorts/EPT at the site of the former Concord Hotel in the Town of Thompson, because “they have the backing and they meet the criteria.”

Because the request for proposals have not yet been formulated and sent out by the New York State Gaming Commission, no one knows the exact requirements regarding support from communities that might be required.

The assumption among some of those involved in the discussion is that community acceptance of a project will be part of the deal, at least in part because of what’s happening in Saratoga Springs, where a majority of the voting population, 57%, voted against the constitutional amendment that allowed the creation of the casinos. There is a strong movement in that city to oppose a casino because they believe it will not be good for the health of main street businesses or the local economy.

Baez said the board could have to contend with a last-minute application. He said there could be a developer who is doing all the homework out of the area, who will come in at the last minute and say, “Here’s my billion-dollar project. I’m ready to go.”

“Well, if they do that, I’d tell you from my experience, I would reject it,” said Sorensen.

Ira Steingart, who is chair of the committee, said, “Although this is economic development, I think all nine legislators need to be involved in determining how we’re going to create this process.”

He said, “We don’t want to hurt the projects we support, but we have to be prudent about how we do it.”