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New Catskills Casino Touts Its Niche, Broad Appeal

Resorts World Catskills opened Thursday, a week before what ownership hopes will be a prosperous time. Casino executives are betting on a full house for Lunar New Year, which begins February 16. They also say the $1.2 billion resort aims to appeal to families, along with visitors who may not be interested in gambling.

Resorts World pushed up its opening from March 1 to February 8 to take advantage of holding Lunar New Year events. Thirty percent of the 100,000 square-foot casino floor is dedicated to Asian gaming. Resorts World Catskills President and CEO Ryan Eller says it is the only casino in New York state that has specifically designed a portion of its casino floor to be particularly attractive to Asian visitors. The opening of New York’s fourth state-licensed casino comes at a time of a casino boom in the region. A January sector report on gaming from Moody’s Investors Service said the cannibalization of gaming revenue continues in the Northeast and that Resorts World will further saturate the upstate market. Here’s Eller.

“We’re the only downstate license in this region. We are the closest license to New York City. Our market is fundamentally different, but so is our product, and so is our strategy. And the Asian gaming, that Asian strategy that you were referring to, is one of the unique aspects of what we offer,” says Eller. “We have designed and offered an integrated resort and, what that means is that we’re trying to offer a resort that has something for everyone. It has a broad appeal. It is something that our domestic gaming customers will feel comfortable. It is something our Asian gaming customers and Chinese-speaking gaming customers coming from Flushing and Brooklyn and Chinatown, they’ll feel comfortable.”

And he points to amenities like dining options and entertainment, along with the future Kartrite Hotel & Indoor Waterpark on the same property as Resorts World, as broadening the appeal. The casino also has another unusual feature — lots of windows. Eller says the idea was to integrate the resort into its surroundings. And there is a digital waterfall behind one of the bars that is a recreation of nearby Stony Kills Falls. Meantime, Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez says he started seeing the impact of a budding casino about six months ago.

“Sullivan County, you used to take Route 17B, it was only busy in the summer, oh no, it’s busy now every single…,” Alvarez says. “There’s traffic out there. There’s people out there.  That’s incredible.”

Alvarez, who used to work in the Borscht Belt-era hotels, has other examples of positive impacts.

“Like more people coming into, moving into the county,” says Alvarez. “I’ve seen an increase on students in schools, so we know that there’s people coming here.”

He says new businesses in surrounding towns and villages will cater both to casino employees and visitors. Republican John Bonacic chairs the state Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

“This is a resort where families could come and never gamble,” Bonacic says. “And, you know Bethel Woods now in 10 short years is one of the top 15 performing arts centers in the world, and now, it’s hand and glove. You want to go to Bethel Woods? You want to spend a weekend here after you see an event and, plus, we’re seeing all the ancillary businesses that are now coming in here investing in Sullivan County because they prosperity and population and increased tourism, is all coming.”

New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul mentioned the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival in 2019. The original festival was held on the site that is now the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which will be hosting anniversary events.

“I got some advice for you doing your marketing here in Sullivan County. You should appeal to all the people who came to the first Woodstock,” says Hochul. “Say bring your grandkids to where it all began, perhaps in some families it did, but you can advertise it as, come back to the Catskills, come back here and actually sleep in a bed this time.”

Resorts World Catskills is the fourth and largest Las Vegas-style casino to open in New York since voters approved the casino gambling amendment in 2013. Governor Andrew Cuomo says that, as of December 2017, the total gaming tax paid to the state exceeded $106 million, and more than 4,800 permanent jobs have been created. At Resorts World, Eller says there are about 1,400 employees, mainly full-time. Hiring continues.

“I have to pinch myself,” Scandariato says. “I just can’t believe I’m even standing here.”

That’s Liberty resident Anthony Scandariato.

“I am standing in my dream. I’ve been waiting for this forever, well 15 years is forever for me,” says Scandariato. “I had a dream 15 years ago they were bringing casinos to the Catskills. So I had a dream that if I buy all this land, 100 acres up in Liberty, New York, I was going to break up all the land and put houses on it for all the people that worked at the casino.”

And he plans to realize his dream. Poughkeepsie resident Mark Surico was seated at a slot machine.

“I go to Connecticut a lot, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun,” Surico says.

He says, now, he will visit the Catskills casino regularly to try his luck. And while the strategy for Resorts World is deliberate, there is at least one aspect reliant upon luck. Resorts World Drive’s numerical address is 888, which in Chinese numerology signifies triple fortune.

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