Fast & Furious: New York Casino Timeline

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (l.) is wasting no time getting casinos online in the Empire State. Up to four sites and operators should be in place by fall.

RFP will be issued in March

In his January 8 State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed his timeline for the selection of casino sites upstate; after years of pushing for a constitutional amendment that was passed by voters last fall, the process is expected to move along quickly.

Four gaming halls will be built upstate in the first phase of a gaming expansion that eventually will add a total of seven destination resorts. The casinos will be located in the Capital Region, the Catskills/Hudson Valley region, and the Southern Tier. At least one casino will be built in each of the three regions; the Catskills are expected to host two facilities.

Cuomo said a request for proposals will be issued in March, with bids due in June. A special board will assess the proposals between June and August, and the state Gaming Commission will conduct a licensing review of the applicants in early fall, according to the Auburn Citizen. Casino sites and operators will be announced shortly thereafter.

“Our challenge now is to make casinos a reality,” Cuomo said in his address. “Make it happen, make it happen fast and make it happen correctly.”

In the Catskills, there are now proposals for casinos at or near the old Concord resort site near Monticello; the former Grossinger’s in Liberty; the onetime Nevele resort near Ellenville; and at a site in Rock Hill.

“After 30 years of talk and false starts, thanks to Governor Cuomo we now have a clear path and timing for the creation of resort destination casinos in upstate New York,” cheered Charlie Degliomini, executive vice president of Empire Resorts.

The tight timelines mean contenders will have to work fast to develop their proposals, but most are way ahead of the game, especially the region’s racinos, which contend that they already have the infrastructure and operational expertise to quickly get up to speed with Class III gaming. The Tioga County legislature has voted unanimously to support such an expansion at Tioga Downs, and Saratoga Springs also is promoting the potential benefits of Class III gaming at the racino at Saratoga Raceway.

A Saratoga casino may be a tough sell, as 58 percent of Saratoga Springs residents opposed the gaming referendum. The group Saratogians Against Vegas-Style Expansion says a full-fledged casino would prove detrimental to local businesses and change the character of the historic community. Group members also say most casino jobs are mostly low paying and would not provide an economic boost to locals.

That prompted a response from longtime employees of the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, who say gaming provides good jobs for local families, according to the Albany Times-Union.“Hearing over and over and over again that my job was not a quality job, that my job didn’t matter or that I didn’t matter really became very personal,” said Kathleen Anderson, the racino’s director of entertainment.

And James Featherstonhaugh, part owner of the racino, said, “We don’t want a Las Vegas-style casino in Saratoga either. We want a Saratoga-style casino.”

In Rensselaer County, meanwhile, lawmakers recently voted 16-2 to support a casino on the Hudson River. “I see this as an opportunity for the community I represent to perhaps become a little more prosperous,” said county legislator Michael Stammel.

Rochester-based Capital Gaming LLC, led by David Flaum, plans to purchase a former Tobin slaughterhouse as a possible casino site, and is also looking at the Shawanga Lodge in the Catskills. Flaum has an agreement with the Seneca Indian Nation for a potential casino in Monroe County, the Times-Union reported.

Mark Gearan, president of Hobart & William Smith Colleges, former Peace Corps director and deputy chief of staff and director of communications during the Clinton administration, is in charge of site selection.

“He is a great academic, he is the former director of the Peace Corps. He is a model of civic engagement,” Cuomo said of Gearan. “We thank him for taking the time to take on this important obligation.”

Cuomo said the resorts will “serve as attractions to bring visitors to the region through tie-ins with the local tourism industry, business community and entertainment venues.”