Rensselaer Mayor Questions Schenectady’s Casino Win

Rensselaer Mayor Daniel Dwyer in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for a re-opening of the Capital District casino siting process, questioning the feasibility of the rival selected project in Schenectady.

Dwyer called on Cuomo to push gaming regulators to essentially show their work by releasing the “score card” that led them to pick the Schenectady project over the Rensselaer proposal as well as “put aside” the initial recommendations of the siting board.

In a letter to Cuomo released on Tuesday, Dwyer points to Cuomo late last week calling on the state’s gaming facility location board to re-open the casino siting process in order to award a fourth casino license to a Southern Tier-based project.

The board this month recommended three projects in Seneca County in the Fingers, the Schenectady site and a project in Sullivan County.

Dwyer adds in his letter that the members of the casino siting board should be replaced with upstate residents who “understand the respective communities.”

It’s that downstate-centric perspective the led the siting board — composed of Long Island Association President Kevin Law, former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, former gubernatorial aide Paul Francis, Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz and Westchester County attorney Dennis Glazer — to pick the projects they did, Dwyer charges.

“It is of little wonder that the choice for the Southern Tier project is actually located in the Finger Lakes,” Dwyer wrote in the letter.

CCE12302014_0001.pdf by Nick Reisman

Moody’s: Casino Win A ‘Credit Positive’ For Host Communities

Winning a bid to host a casino resort is a “credit positive” for the host municipalities in upstate New York, a Moody’s analysis released on Friday found.

Nevertheless, there is a note of caution from the credit-rating agency: Given the troubles of the gambling and casino industry across the country, the long-term benefits of the projects could be “muted.”

The state’s gaming facility location board on Wednesday awarded casino licenses to project bids in Sullivan County, Schenectady and the town of Tyre in Seneca County.

Moody’s points to the revenue and job creation expected to be generated by the projects.

The counties hosting the casino resorts will receive “host fees” with $14.7 million going to Sullivan, $13.1 million expected for Schenectady and $6.9 million going to Seneca County.

The towns and nearby school districts will be in line for smaller amounts.

Moody’s also expects the host municipalities to see increases in local property tax bases driven by the new construction and the growth in sales revenue

Moody’s says the outlook on the gaming industry in the United States writ large is negative due to weakening revenues, lower demand and high fixed costs — suggesting the long-term impact in New York from casino revenue may be elusive.

“Gaming revenues, particularly outside of Las Vegas (Aa2/stable), are down in areas across the country and it remains to be seen if the estimates provided by the Gaming Commission and the casino companies themselves come to fruition. Significant increases in traffic and tourism will likely require an additional police presence. Host municipalities may also need to improve existing infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges, in order to accommodate increases in traffic.”

Quiet Casino Winner: HTC

There was a host of obvious winners and losers following yesterday’s announcement regarding the awarding of three of four available upstate casino licenses.

But there was another, far less obvious winner, too: The New York Hotel Trades Council, otherwise known as HTC.

The small but scrappy and political potent union has standing labor agreements with all three of the casino projects that got the green light from the Gaming Facility Location Board.

That means the 32,000-member HTC is poised to significantly increase its upstate footprint, which is now almost entirely in NYC.

A source familiar with the three casino projects said the union is likely to gain more than 3,000 members – a 10 percent increase in its ranks, which would be almost unheard of in the modern labor movement.

HTC stood to gain even more jobs if one of the Orange County projects had been approved.

But that would have been a little to close for comfort, competition-wise, to the existing Resorts World slot parlor at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, which is staffed by more than 1,000 HTC workers who just won a major living wage ruling last fall.

The upstate casino HTC members aren’t likely to get the same deal, which doubled the salaries of Aqueduct workers overnight. But they will likely get a quite lucrative arrangement that would be “transformative” in rural areas, the source said.

HTC currently has seven unionized hotels in the Capital Region, and has been trying to expand. These three casino deals will help accomplish that goal, and undoubtedly increase the union’s clout on a number of levels.

HTC didn’t lobby for any specific casino bid, according to his source. The process was simply too difficult to (ahem) game out.

It did, however, work hard (and spend big) to get the constitutional amendment that allowed for the expansion of non-Indian-run casino gambling expanded in New York.

The union also successfully pushed for so-called “labor peace agreement” language to be included in the initial casino bill.

Cuomo’s Casino Victory Lap

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed hard to get Las Vegas-style casinos legalized in New York as a key component of his plan to revive the upstate economy, plans to visit the three communities that emerged victorious yesterday in the battle for gaming licenses.

Cuomo’s press office just released his itinerary for the day, and it includes visits to Schenectady, Sullivan and Seneca counties. His schedule is as follows:

– At approximately 10:30 a.m., Cuomo will be in Schenectady – site of the Rivers Casino & Resort project at Mohawk Harbor. He’ll appear at Proctors Theater at 432 State St.

(It’s worth noting that Proctors does not believe it will be negatively impacted by this project because it doesn’t have a performance space).

– At approximately 12:30 p.m., Cuomo will be in Sullivan County, site of the Montreign Resort Casino. This event will take place at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on Hurd Road.

– At approximately 2:30 p.m., Cuomo will make his third and final casino-related appearance in Seneca County, future home of the Lago Resort & Casino. He’ll be at the Finger Lakes Regional Airport on Martin Road.

Cuomo has repeatedly gone out of his way to insist that he had no influence over the selection of the casino license recipients, who all spent big on lobbying and campaign contributions throughout the selection process.

The governor made a similar claim regarding the decision – also announced yesterday – not to allow fracking in New York, saying he relied on the expertise and recommendations of his health and DEC commissioners.

Of course, no one who knows this governor and his hands-on approach to governing is buying these claims.

And it appears the governor is more than willing to fete – and take some credit for – the casino decisions now that they have been formally announced.

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.