New York Board Recommends Three Upstate Casinos

on December 18, 2014
New York three upstate casinos

Supporters of the Rivers Casino project in Schenectady celebrated after the proposal was recommended for a license in the Albany region. (Image: John Carl D’Annibale/The Times Union)

Upstate New York will likely see three casinos built in various regions of the state, as the Gaming Facility Location Board chose to recommend one project in each of three areas under consideration.

That’s one less than the maximum of four projects that the state could have potentially chosen to license, with the saturated gaming market in the northeastern United States likely being the deciding factor in limiting the number of resorts built.

The board chose to recommend one casino each for the Albany-Saratoga region, the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region, and the Catskills-Hudson Valley area.

Were a fourth casino to be awarded, it was likely to be in that final region, which is closest to New York City and attracted the most attention from major developers during the bidding process.

Montreign Wins Lucrative Catskills License

Instead, the Catskills will be home to just one casino: the Montreign Resort Casino in Thompson, located in Sullivan County.

That project was proposed by Empire Resorts, a company that is controlled by the same family that runs the Genting Group.

That meant that some potentially more lucrative projects in Orange County (including two other Genting proposals) were passed over, both due to fears that they could take away some business from racinos in Westchester and New York City and because Sullivan County was seen as an area that needed economic development.

“For 50 years, the Sullivan County Catskills have sought gaming as a way to grow our tourism-based economy,” said New York State Senator John Bonacic (R-Catskills). “And now that moment is here.”

Schenectady, Tyre Will Also Host Casinos

In the area near the state capital, the board chose to recommend the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady. The $300 million resort will be part of an even larger effort to redevelop a riverfront site in the city.

Finally, the Finger Lakes town of Tyre will play host to the Lago Resort & Casino. The $425 million proposal was the largest in the Southern Tier or Finger Lakes areas.

In the aftermath of the board’s decision, reactions flowed in from around the state and throughout the region.

“This means rebirth. This means new life,” said Randy Resnick, owner of Bernie’s Holiday Restaurant in Sullivan County. “Basically, it’s our shot. This is our time.”

Some opponents of casinos celebrated the fact that projects they lobbied against weren’t chosen.

“I think we had a lot to do with it,” said Cara Benson of Save East Greenbush, which opposed a casino project in the town near Albany. “[Board Chairman Kevin Law] came back and said to me, ‘We really listened to you and we really took your concerns into consideration.'”

Gural Calls Decision a “Joke”

On the other hand, some of the losing bidders were understandably frustrated by the board’s recommendations.

“Anyone who understands the casino industry would call this a joke,” said Jeff Gural, owner of the Vernon Downs racetrack. Gural was hoping to turn another track, the Tioga Downs raceway near the Pennsylvania border, from a racino into a full-fledged resort casino.

“I just feel bad for the people living there,” Gural said. “These people just got totally screwed by the governor.”

Analysts also said that New Jersey may have been a winner in the proceedings, as they avoided an Orange County casino that could have eaten away at some of Atlantic City’s traffic.

“I think it’s a huge relief for Atlantic City casinos,” said Fitch Ratings gaming analyst Alex Bumazhny.