16 applicants include the big names
Ex-casino honcho Donald Trump, who once owned a trio of gaming halls in Atlantic City, sparked a lively debate last week when he told the New York Daily News the Empire State is too late to the game to succeed, and cannot prevail with competition in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, possibly Massachusetts, and of course, his old stomping grounds, New Jersey.
“It’s not going to be easy upstate,” Trump said of four new casinos planned for the economically stressed part of the state. “In the short term, there will be excitement and glitz. But in the end, it will end up like a lot of other places—like Atlantic City.”
Trump once owned three casinos in the shore resort: Trump Marina, now the Golden Nugget; Trump Plaza, which closed last month; and Trump Taj Mahal, which is struggling to survive, but may be forced to close as soon as November.
Robert Williams, executive director of the New York Gaming Commission, said Trump is overstating the case. “The viability of the New York marketplace is underscored by the number and quality of applicants that responded,” including Genting and Caesars, he said.
The upstate licenses will be divided among three designated regions: the Albany-Saratoga area; the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region; and the Catskills/Hudson Valley area. The casinos are expected to bring $430 million per year to state and local coffers, add thousands of new jobs, and jumpstart additional development.
The “biggest prize,” reports Bloomberg News, is Orange County, the area closest to New York City and its 8.4 million residents. But the influential Harriman family is exercising its muscle to keep two main contenders, Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Genting, from building resorts there. The Harrimans, who donated land to create Sterling Forest, New York’s second largest state park, said it will enforce limits on deeds to block the Caesars project.
“The current Harriman family is intent on perpetuating their legacy of protecting and enhancing the environment in that section of the state,” said James Sweeney, an attorney for the Harrimans. “The family will march off to court to enforce the deed restrictions, and the siting board knows that.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said he isn’t worried about opposition to two of Genting’s proposed $1.5 billion resort and Caesars’ $880 million casino-hotel.
“We have some controversy about certain sites and we don’t even know that those sites will be selected,” Cuomo said. “They may have nothing to complain about because there may be no casino.”
Lee Park, spokesman for state Gaming Commission, said the board “still expects to make a decision in late October, but may go into November if the work requires.”
Some observers speculate that politicians up for reelection would like to see the decision delayed until after voters hit the polls next month, so they can avoid fallout from their positions, either pro- or anti-casino.