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Hudson Valley News

Sullivan Wins Casino Bid For The Catskills/Hudson Valley

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Empire Resorts/Montreign Resort Casino
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Wednesday’s announcement by the New York State Gaming Facility Location Board that it is recommending only one casino license for the mid-Hudson Valley/Catskills region means eight proposals are going home empty-handed. Sullivan County casino supporters are cheering, but there’s disappointment in Ulster and Orange Counties.

The board selected Empire Resorts’ proposed Montreign Resort Casino in the Town of Thompson in Sullivan County. Eight other proposals for the region were left on the table – six for Orange County, one also for Sullivan, and one for Ulster County. Here’s Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson.

“There was only one better scenario and that was both, but it was going to be one, this is the project,” says Samuelson. “We think this is going to be transformational for the state. It’s going to be an extraordinary project. It’s going to bring in incredible revenue and just completely revitalize the Sullivan County/Catskills as a tourism destination, year-round tourism destination. Again. So we are just completely over the moon.”

Democratic Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther says Sullivan County has been waiting for this opportunity for decades.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am today,” says Gunther. “I had a tear in my eye to be honest with you because I just, I felt we would but it ain’t over till somebody sings, and they sang today for Sullivan County.”

Gaming Facility Location Board Chair Kevin Law laid out some factors leading to the decision to recommend one license for the Catskills/Hudson Valley region, including:

“We considered carefully whether it would be desirable to recommend two licenses in the region,” says Law. “Through research and analysis we concluded that a license award to any of the six Orange County proposals  present too great a risk of precluding success of a project in Sullivan or Ulster County.”

Again, Samuelson.

“They were 100 percent right,” Samuelson says. “We’ve known it all along. We are thrilled that they agreed.”

Ulster County Executive Michael Hein supported the Nevele Resort, Casino & Spa in Wawarsing.

“Well, I think it’s important to understand at this moment we are all deeply disappointed. There’s an enormous amount of people, community organizations that all came together for a concerted effort to make sure that the Nevele was selected,” says Hein. “There was a huge effort to ensure that there was more than one license in the Catskills.”

He says he hopes the Gaming Commission reconsiders issuing the Catskills just one license. Sullivan County officials and residents argued that a casino in Sullivan County could not co-exist with one in Orange County, but some Orange County casino supporters disagreed, especially if the Orange casino were near Newburgh. City of Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy says she is frustrated and disappointed.

“So why did they even open it up to Orange in the first place and put all of us through a whole year’s worth of planning and figuring and spending money and making trips and pleading their case,” says Kennedy. “And not only that but put every one of the six organizations and partnerships through all kinds of hoop-jumping exercises only to come to the conclusion that we’re really not going to consider Orange County. To me that’s a real bait and switch.”

She supported the Hudson Valley Casino & Resort in the neighboring Town of Newburgh.

Genting Americas’ proposed Sterling Forest Resort in Orange County was the most moneyed and perhaps controversial project of all. A spokesman for the operator of the Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack expressed disappointment with the decision, saying Genting will now double down on its efforts to further grow Resorts World Casino New York City and generate even more tax revenue for the state. Chair of the Sterling Forest Partnership Rodger Friedman opposed the Tuxedo casino.

“Oh I’m ecstatic, we’re ecstatic,” says Friedman. “And it’s wonderful for Sullivan County that they got what they wanted. Personally I don’t think a casino is a wonderful thing, but they wanted it, they got it.”

He was in Albany to hear the decision and says he was sweating after learning about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration moving to ban fracking in the state.

“I have to launder my shirts, yeah, we were very nervous, especially hearing that the governor had made the announcement about fracking,” Friedman says. “We thought, uh-oh, he’s giving the environmental community one thing on one hand to take something away with the other, but that’s not how it turned out!”

There were also some opponents to a proposal from Caesars Entertainment for Woodbury. There were promises of lawsuits if either Genting’s Tuxedo proposal or Caesars were selected.

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