New York Casino Sites Inch Closer to Gotham

The Cordish Companies and Penn National Gaming are looking at sites in Orange County, less than 50 miles from Times Square. One of the sites adjoins the popular Woodbury Common, an outlet shopping center. Catskill casino developers are crying foul. And in western New York, an existing racino is making waves.

Cappelli: Plan would be “a devastating blow”

Several new bidders in the fight for New York State’s first four Class III casino licenses are getting closer to the Big Apple.

According to the New York Times, a partnership of the Cordish Companies, Hard Rock and Simon Property Group is exploring a site near the massive Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Orange County, at the base of the New York Thruway, less than 50 miles from Times Square. The outlet already attracts more than 11 million visitors a year, and is much closer to Gotham than Ulster and Sullivan counties in the Catskills, where some other potential bidders are concentrating their efforts.

Those contenders are already up in arms. Michael Treanor, who has proposed a $500 million casino resort at the former Nevele hotel in Ulster County, says an Orange County casino “would dramatically affect, if not eliminate the Nevele project. Why would anyone feel the need to go further? It would take southern Ulster County and Sullivan County out of contention.”

“It would be a devastating blow to everyone who’s been trying to revive Sullivan County for the past 40 years,” agreed developer Louis Cappelli, who wants to build a $550 million casino resort in Monticello. “It would cut us off from the supply of patrons.”

And Charles Degliomini, of Empire Resorts says an Orange County would “build an economic dam between downstate and upstate.” Empire has proposed a $600 million casino complex near Monticello.

A casino near New York City also would fly in the face of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s stated goal to use gaming as an economic driver for upstate counties, which need the jobs and development. Cuomo’s gaming expansion plan, approved by voters last fall, would include three additional casinos during the second phase of development, seven years after the first wave opens.

Sullivan County Executive Scott Samuelson said he knows why developers want to be closer to New York City, with its massive population base. “But I think it goes against the legislation and the governor’s intent.”

John D. Sabini, former chairman of the State Racing and Wagering Board, is not surprised that the bidding is getting more heated. “As it moves forward, there’ll be no shortage of bad blood, sniping and hired guns,” Sabini told the Times. “It’ll get ugly because the stakes are so high. People have already spent millions of their own money.”

Penn National Gaming, which operates more than 20 casinos in the U.S., is also looking at Orange County, as well as other regions.

Woodbury Mayor Mike Queenan thinks the Cordish plan is a good one. “We need to take a hard look at this,” he told the Hudson Valley News. “It might not happen at the end of the day, but if it did, it could be an economic boom.”

Meanwhile, Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs racino in Nichols, New York, has contributed more than $221,000 to political campaigns since January 2011, reports the Elmira Star-Gazette. Gural is hoping to nab one of the state’s first four Class III gaming licenses, which will be awarded this year.

Citing records from the state Board of Elections, the Star-Gazette listed $56,000 in contributions from Gural to Governor Andrew Cuomo and $40,000 to the New York State Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.

Gural is chairman and CEO of American Racing and Entertainment, which owns Tioga Downs in Tioga County, and Vernon Downs Casino & Hotel Gural in Oneida County. ARE donated $375,000 to the pro-casino group New York Jobs Now, which supported last year’s successful gaming referendum.

Only Genting New York and Yonkers Racing Corp. gave more to back the ballot question, pledging $750,000 each.

Gural has said Tioga Downs will add a $90 million expansion project if he gets a casino license.