Three, Not Four, Projects Awarded Casino Licenses

The state’s gaming facility location board on Wednesday recommended three casino projects in three different regions of upstate New York receive a potentially lucrative license to open a casino resort that includes table-top gaming.

The state’s recommendation — which is expected to be formally approved by gaming regulators — does not include a fourth gaming license after the facility location board concluded fourth resort would not be economically viable.

The location siting board recommended: Schenectady’s Rivers Resort and Casino at Mohawk Harbor, Lago Resort in the Finger Lakes region community of Tyre and Empire Resorts Montreign Resort in Sullivan County.

The decision shut out Orange County, which had been competing with several bid proposals, including a massive resort complex that would have sought to draw in New York City tourists.

Officials at the gaming facility location board determined an Orange County casino would have “cannibalized” a competing casino in the Catksills.

By the same token, a second Catskills casino would not have been economically viable either, Board Chairman Kevin Law said at the announcement in Albany.

The determination also shut out the state’s Southern Tier region, a jobs-starved area of the state which also today learned the state would move to formally ban high-volume hydrofracking. Tioga Downs CEO Jeff Gural, who had sought to transform his struggling racetrack into a casino resort, had raised the possibility of the facility closing if a casino license had not been awarded.

The recommendations from the facility location board is the culmination of a process that began in 2012, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo first proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow for non-Indian commercial casinos in the state.

Cuomo had initally sought a massive resort casino complex at Aqueduct in Queens, a project that ultimately apart.

The governor then turned his focus on making casinos a tool of upstate economic development.

After voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution expanding casino gaming, lawmakers approved enabling legislation that set the first phase of casino construction to be north of New York City in regions where there is not an Indian-run casino.

But just as New York got into the casino business, questions arose over whether the northeast casino market was reaching a saturation point as the economic troubles of casinos in Atlantic City became apparent.

Cuomo, meanwhile, insisted today he is playing no role in the casino siting process, insisting at a cabinet meeting the recommendations from the siting board were made without his involvement.

Casino Decisions May Come Dec. 17

A decision on which projects will receive the green light to build a resort-style casino is expected to be made on Dec. 17, state gaming officials on Monday said.

The state Gaming Commission’s Gaming Facility Location Board huddled last week, indicating it will make its decision as to which licenses will be issued at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 17.

“The Gaming Facility Location Board has met on three occasions to discuss the financial and employment histories of those applicants responsive to the Request For Application to Develop and Operate a Gaming Facility in New York state,” Gaming Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said at the meeting. “Their most recent meeting occurred this past Friday when they met at Hofstra University. While information relative to the board’s review and deliberation has been scarce, I understand that they have tentatively scheduled Dec. 17 in Albany for their final meeting.”

There are a total of 16 proposals for casinos in the first phase of casino construction in three regions of the state: The Hudson Valley/Catskills region, the Finger Lakes/Southern Tier and the Capital District.

Up to four licenses will be issue in the first round of construction, and members of the casino location board have suggested they may not issue all of them immediately.

Six of the proposals are in Orange County, which is closest geographically to New York City. Some of the upstate developers have insisted that licenses should be issued closer to the Catskills region, given the economic troubles of the area.

The casino selection process is taking place against a backdrop of uncertainty for the table-top gambling industry, especially in Atlantic City. More broadly, industry analysts have raised concerns about market saturation of casinos in the northeast.

Seward Appeals To Cuomo On Howe Caverns Casino

Republican Sen. James Seward last week sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to boost the prospects of the proposed Howe Caverns Resort and Casino as one of the projects selected.

The letter, which was addressed to both Cuomo and the members of the Gaming Facility Location Board, notes the original, stated intent of the casino expansion amendment approved by voters last year was to increase job growth and aid to schools.

“It is clear that no other site better fulfills these strict criteria, no will another have a more profound regional impact, than the Howe Caverns Resort and Casino,” Seward wrote in the letter dated Nov. 14. “It is projected to deliver 20 percent more revenue to the Schoharie County budget, create 3,000 construction jobs and nearly 2,000 permanent positions.”

Seward in the letter notes the proposed casino at Howe Caverns has an ideal location as well.

“Howe Caverns will also be the only complement to the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, which will maximize the overall economic benefit to New York State,” Seward wrote.

Up to four licenses for three different regions for the state will be issued in the first phase of casino construction.

The Capital Region, the Hudson Valley/Catskills and the Finger Lakes/Southern Tier region of the state fall within the first round of casino siting.

The state Gaming Commission is due to meet on Friday, but a decision as to which casino developments will be selected will not be announced at that meeting.

img-Y18095922-0001 by Nick Reisman

No Decision On Casino Siting Expected By Friday

Members of the board that will decide where to place up to four casinos won’t have a decision when state gaming regulators meet on Friday, according to a letter released this afternoon.

“We are scheduled to meet again this upcoming Friday, November 21. We expect to be able to make a decision at our next meeting,” wrote Kevin Law, the chairman of the casino location siting board to state Gaming Commission Chairman Mark Gearan.

Law is referring to the next scheduled meeting after the meeting that comes this Friday, according to the state Gaming Commission.

The panel — which is composed of Law, former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Paul Francis, Dennis Glazer and Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz — has heard presentations over the last several months from developers who want to build resort-style casinos in three regions of the state north New York City: The Catskills/Hudson Valley, the Capital Region and the Finger Lakes/Southern Tier.

There are nine casino proposals all together.

The decision as to which developer and casino company will receive the licenses comes as the casino and gambling industry in the northeast has apparently cooled in part to a high concentration of casino sites in neighboring states.

11.18.14.GFLBLtrGearan by Nick Reisman

Bonacic: Casinos In Orange County Problematic

Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee Chairman John Bonacic released a letter to state gaming regulators on Monday expressing concern that placing a casino in Orange County would hurt downstate gaming parlors with video-lottery terminals and not help the jobs-starved Catskills region.

“Proposals in the Catskills are significantly further along, if not finished with their reviews and approvals for construction of their projects, as opposed to projects through the southern part of the region which have only begun the process,” Bonacic wrote in the letter dated Sept. 18.

He adds that having casino resorts built in Orange County — Genting is proposing a massive resort in the county and locating it as closely as possible to New York City — would harm revenue going to Yonkers and Aqueduct VLTs.

The four-page letter repeatedly notes the intent of the amendment to expand casino gambling as outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Bonacic himself in New York beyond Indian-run gaming halls was to boost the economic outlook of financially strapped regions.

“Voters throughout New York state relied on these statements, and others like them, when they passed with over 57% support, the constitutional amendment necessary to bring about this process,” Bonacic wrote.

Developers seeking up to four lucrative licenses from the state Gaming Commission have told officials on the casino location board that a casino placed in Orange County would likely cut off any revenue for a casino built in the Catskills to the North.

The state is considering casinos for three regions: the Hudson Valley/Catskills, the Southern Tier and the Capital Region.

Casino Statement by Sen Bonacic by Nick Reisman

Petition Against Southern Tier Casino Dismissed

Plans for a casino in the Town of Tyre – if approved by the state – are moving forward after a Seneca County Justice dismissed a petition from residents opposed to the project.

That petition alleged that the town violated the Environmental Conservation and Public Officers Laws when putting together an application for a local casino from Rochester-based developer Wilmorite.

Long-story short, in June, the town adopted six resolutions that stated the casino project would not result in any significant adverse environmental impacts. But residents who filed the petition say the town failed to go through the right procedures to make that determination.

Today’s ruling indicates that the town did, in fact, take the necessary steps to pass those resolutions.

The petition stems from a lawsuit filed (and dismissed) earlier this year from residents who claimed the town passed a zoning law to improve the chances of a local casino getting the green light from the state.

The law, an amendment to the town’s zoning code, allows those who have a property of 75 acres or more to create their own Planned Unit Development district, which could make a large project, like a $350 million casino, easier to accommodate.

Plaintiffs in that original lawsuit alleged the casino developer, Wilmorite, influenced the amendment by paying for engineering and legal bills tied to its preparation. Ultimately, the court threw out those allegations.

The state is expected to approve four casino proposals this fall in three regions, including the Southern Tier.


Time Warner Cable News/Siena Poll: NYers Willing To Gamble On Casinos

New Yorkers in three key regions of the state see both upsides and downsides to the expansion of casino gambling, according to an exclusive Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll.

The survey found registered voters in the Hudson Valley, Southern Tier and the Capital Region believe casinos have the potential to create jobs, but could also bring headaches like crime, traffic and gambling addiction.

The poll sought the opinions of voters in the regions designated for commercial casino expansion, ranging from their expectations for the benefits of casino gambling to their concerns over the potential downsides.

Overall, New Yorkers in the economically troubled Southern Tier are the most supportive of casino development, with 48 percent backing the expansion. Support is weakest in the Capital Region, where voters are almost evenly split: 44 percent support and 40 percent oppose.

Voters in those impacted areas remain mixed on the potential outcomes: 37 percent believe casinos will have positive benefits to their region, while 31 percent expect a negative outcome. Twenty-nine percent believe casino expansion will have little real impact on the area.

“The public is quite wise,” said Siena College Polling Institute Director Don Levy. “They see how what appear to be contradictory opinions and you can hold them at the same time.”

Most optimistic about the long-term outcome is the Southern Tier, where 43 percent believe there will be a positive benefit.

A combined 74 percent believe casinos will bring jobs to their area of the state — a component those surveyed believe will have the broadest benefit to their area.

But at the same time, 51 percent say the state has enough gambling.

“A clear majority says I think there are already enough casinos,” Levy said. “The public is not screaming, ‘Let’s go get a casino.'”

Overall, the poll found New Yorkers living in regions due to get a casino resort are largely ambivalent about the impact.

Forty percent say they expect casinos will create jobs, while 29 percent believe the biggest benefit will be increased tax revenue.

When it comes to the downsides of casino gambling, 36 percent predict increased traffic problems because of the facilities, while 26 percent fear an increase in crime.

The poll found the hope for jobs was strongest in the Catskills and Hudson Valley region, where 42 percent believe casino expansion will grow employment, with 38 percent in both the Capital Region and the Catskills expecting a boost in jobs.

“We are back from the depths of a recession, but there continue to be large numbers of New Yorkers who continue to be unemployed or underemployed, but the idea there are going to be several thousands of jobs available is really quite attractive,” Levy said.

The argument that casino expansion will lead to job creation was a key argument made by campaigns supporting the amendment to expand casino gambling last year.

Whether those jobs come, though, remains a question. An analysis by Moody’s Investor Services found the saturation of casinos along the East Coast resulted in downgrade of Atlantic City in New Jersey. Governor Andrew Cuomo, the main supporter of last year’s successful effort to pass an amendment to expand casino gambling, said it’ll be up to the private market to decide the growth of gambling.

“The private market, which reads Moody’s which does this for a living, will make a determination what scale and scope the market can support,” Cuomo said earlier this month.

Up to four casinos will be built in the first phase of construction, with projects selected by state regulators this fall.

The poll of 816 registered voters in New York was conducted between July 20 and July 23. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points, with a higher margin of error when broken down by region.

TWC0714 Total Crosstabs 072814 (2) by Nick Reisman

Fraternal Order Of Police Back Bonacic’s Online Gambling Bill

The state Fraternal Order of Police on Wednesday endorsed a measure that would allow certain versions of Internet poker.

In a letter to the bill’s sponsors, the group’s president Charlie Caputo endorses the move, writing it would create a carefully regulated system of online gambling.

“Residents who choose to play will then have access to a well-regulated, well-monitored system and will not be drawn into their money or their identities at risk on off-shore, unlicensed, black market sites,” the letter states.

The bill, introduced by Bonacic in March, would allow for online versions of Omaha Hold ‘em and Texas Hold ‘em.

The poll comes as casino magnate and prolific political donor Sheldon Adelson is undertaking a high-profile effort to ban online gambling, and has recruited former Gov. George Pataki to help lobby.

Gaming Letter by Nick Reisman

State Gaming Commission Appoints Two To Casino Siting Board

The state Gaming Commission on Monday appointed attorney Dennis Glazer and Long Island Association President and CEO Kevin Law to its casino siting board both of whom have ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Glazer and Law join former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, former gubernatorial advisor Paul Francis and Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz to the board that will have the power to decide which casino projects move forward with lucrative licences this fall.

Up to four non-Indian commercial casinos will be constructed in the first round of construction in the Albany area, the Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier.

Glazer is the husband of Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, the former Cuomo-appointed chairwoman of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

“Dennis has had an accomplished career and evidences his commitment to public service by taking on this important role,” said Gaming Commission Chairman Mark Gearan. “His legal expertise and impressive leadership in varied sectors combine to make him a valuable asset to the Board, and I thank him for volunteering his time and talent.”

Law has been the leader of the pro-business Long Island Association since 2010 and at one point was considered a potential running mate for Cuomo.

“Throughout his career, Kevin has repeatedly answered the call to public service in New York State,” said Gearan. “His commitment to and knowledge of economic development is tailor-made for the Gaming Facility Location Board, and I thank him for taking on this important task.”

Small Towns, Big Lobbying (Updated)

Nearly all of the communities that are under consideration to host a resort-style casino fall under a population threshold for lobbyists to disclose how much they are spending to influence local officials.

Fifteen of the 16 communities where developers are eyeing casino development have populations under 50,000, a report on casino lobbying released by the New York Public Research Interest Group on Monday found.

The lobbying and contribution data compiled by NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney was first reported by Capital New York.

The entities that lobby those local governments won’t have to reveal how much they are spending to sway local opinion — an important criterion for the state Gaming Commission’s siting board for casino licenses.

The only community that is under consideration for a casino that meets the 50,000-person threshold is Schenectady.

The rest, however, are small communities and cities that fall well below that figure, meaning it will be unknown how casino developers and bidders try to influence them.


“The lack of disclosure of local lobbying activities in these communities makes it impossible to know how much is being spent to influence these governments and highlights that no single entity is charged with monitoring these activities,” the NYPIRG report found.

Updated: Vince Casale notes the Howe’s Cave-based casino proposal lies within the host community of Cobleskill, which has a population of more than 6,400 people. Howe’s Cave is technically a hamlet and is not a Census-designated community.

In the first phase of casino construction, up to four casinos will be built in three regions of the state: the Capital Region, the Catskills/Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier.

Of course, lobbying for casino gambling in New York is a big business, especially on the statewide level.

Overall, casino bidders and development companies have spent $6.7 million on lobbying campaigns in 2012 and 2013.

Bidders contributed a combined $4.3 million to state and local party committees during those years. Genting Group led the pack in both lobbying — $2.5 million — and in campaign contributions, spending $984,244.

New York state lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment in 2012 and again in 2013 to allow for the expansion of casinos through non-Indian tribe operators. Voters approved the amendment through a ballot referendum in the fall.

In the interim, casino companies lobbied both state lawmakers and voters heavily.

A group funded by casino companies, business groups and labor unions called New York Jobs Now spent $1.9 million supporting the ballot referendum.

When it came to campaign contributions the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee received $199,500, while Senate Republicans received $113,500. The soft-money or “housekeeping” accounts for the the Assembly Democrats also received $77,500 from casino interests, while Senate Republicans were also given $77,500 in soft money funds.

Among elected officials, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s re-election campaign received the most funds, $66,000.