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IDA announces casinos tax breaks

By Fritz Mayer
August 27, 2014

MONTICELLO, NY — The Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) on August 25 announced that proposed agreements had been reached with each of the two organizations seeking to open casinos in the Town of Thompson.

The deal with Mohegan Sun calls for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program in which for the first eight years of the program, the organization would make payments to taxing municipalities based on an assessment of about $47 million. The property is currently taxed on an assessment of about $10.4 million. If a casino is awarded to Orange County and a smaller casino is built in Monticello, the assessment would be lower.

The deal with Empire Resorts and the proposed Montreign Resort Casino calls for a PILOT agreement based on a top assessment of $53 million; the current assessment is about $1.8 million. The assessment would be lowered depending on how the one or two licenses are awarded in the region.

The proposed tax abatement for the Mohegan Sun project could be worth $36 million for the developers over the 20-year life of the program, but according to the IDA, the project would have an economic impact of more than $3 billion in the region over that same period.

At a public hearing at the government center on the evening of August 15, Ira Steingart, chairman of the IDA board, said he was pleased with the deal, because with most tax abatement projects, the PILOT agreement would not raise the amount of money being paid by the applicant at all.

About a dozen speakers endorsed the tax breaks for the project and repeated the refrain that they were needed to help ensure that the project is successful, and that the project will bring jobs and provide the spark that is needed to re-ignite the local economy.

Shirley Felder, the owner of Sullivan County First Recycling and Refuse, said she had previously been opposed to casinos but now supported them. She said decades ago, when Sullivan County was dotted with numerous hotels, her mother had worked as a maid in eight of them. She said current county residents at the bottom of the economic ladder should have the opportunity to work as a maid in a casino.