ALBANY, NY — Governor Andrew Cuomo has revived the possibility of a full Las Vegas-style casino or two coming to the Catskills with his State of the State address. Speaking on January 9, Cuomo proposed a total of seven such casinos, with phase one encompassing three facilities, which would be located somewhere “upstate,” but specifically not in New York City.
The governor said that 50 million visitors per year visit the city, and casinos would be a way to lure some of those visitors to travel upstate. He said because of the natural resources upstate, once the visitors experience upstate, they will return.
The governor’s remarks prompted this statement from Senator John Bonacic: “I am pleased the governor has highlighted destination casino gaming, which is a key part of potential economic growth in our region. I am sponsoring the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment on casino gaming. I look forward to seeing this long-sought-after form of entertainment finally happen in the Catskills.
“Like the governor, I personally have no need to see a casino located in New York City and would prefer a total of two in Sullivan and Ulster counties. Ultimately though, I want no ‘poison pills’ in the casino legislation. I am supportive of the rights of local communities to enact and amend zoning laws to permit or prohibit gaming. I will work to ensure that one of the first three casinos, if not two, are in the Catskills.”
Other politicians also reacted positively to the casino proposal. Sheldon Silver, speaker of the assembly, in the past has been opposed to casinos, but now supports them if they are kept out of “densely populated areas,” such as New York City.
At least one other politician was pleased that, at least in phase one, there would be no casino in the city. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz of Brooklyn issued a press release praising the governor’s plan, saying, “This is great news for New York State, which would benefit from the more than $1 billion in economic activity that could be generated by casino gaming, and for our residential communities here in the city that dreaded the potential negative impact of gambling venues on our neighborhoods,” he said.
Cymbrowitz, who is chairman of the Committee on Drug Abuse and Alcoholism, spoke at a press conference sponsored by the organization Stop the Coney Island Casino.
The owner of the local racino, Mighty M Gaming in Monticello, said it is moving forward regardless of what happens with the casino constitutional amendment. Charlie Degliomini, executive vice president of Empire Reports, issued a statement saying, “No matter the ultimate outcome regarding expanded gaming, Empire Resorts and EPR Properties continue to make significant progress with the Town of Thompson on developing a destination resort at the site of the former Concord Resort, where we anticipate gaining site plan approval soon. Our focus is on creating over 1,000 good jobs as soon as possible in the Catskills.”
The state legislature passed a constitutional amendment last year to allow limited casino gambling in the state. In order to become law, the legislature must pass it again this year, and the amendment must be approved by voter referendum in November.