Sullivan, Schenectady, and Seneca counties have been selected as sites for casinos in upstate New York, according to a panel, bringing an end to a fierce competition among 16 developers and job-hungry communities.
The Gaming Facility Location Board also decided not to recommend a possible fourth license amid an increasingly saturated gambling market in which consumers have more and more options closer to home. While casinos were once limited to Las Vegas, Atlantic City and a handful of tribal reservations, they have now opened in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island and several other states, and most Americans are within a few hours’ drive of a gambling facility.
Voters authorized up to four casinos in three upstate regions last year: the Albany-Saratoga area, the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region and the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley.
The projects announced:
- The Montreign Resort Casino is to be built in the Catskills town of Thompson on the grounds of the old Concord Hotel. The $630 million project will come with an 18-story hotel, meeting spaces, and an indoor waterpark. Empire Resorts, its developer, operates through a subsidiary, the nearby Monticello Casino & Brewery.
- The Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in the city of Schenectady will be part of a larger redevelopment effort at a formally blighted riverfront site. The $300 million development will include a hotel, a high-end steakhouse and more than 1,100 slot machines.
- The Lago Resort & Casino, a $425 million project in the Finger Lakes town of Tyre in Seneca County, will include 2,000 slot machines. Lago, which is named for the Italian word for “lake,” was the largest contender in the Finger Lakes-Southern Tier region.
Applicants submitted 16 bids for licenses. With its proximity to New York City, the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley attracted the most interest, with nine bidders.
The Board decided not to recommend any sites in New York City’s suburban Orange County, where developers concentrated proposals.
The board pored over 75,000 pages of application materials, heard from more than 400 people during public comment functions and received more than 3,000 written comments over several months before it made its decision. Members of the panel said they were looking for the best project that would have the most significant economic impact on struggling communities.
The casinos were intended to bring jobs and tourism to economically struggling areas of the state. The three regions were picked to spread out the benefits and to avoid competition with existing tribal casinos.
The board’s decision isn’t the final step. Background checks and environmental reviews will be completed, and the licenses must be formally awarded by the state’s Gaming Commission. There’s also the possible threat of lawsuits from local opponents concerned about traffic, environmental effects, zoning and the effects of expanded gambling.
Bidders for the licenses and their allies spent more than $11 million on lobbying and campaign donations in 2012 and 2013, according to an analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group. Reports for 2014 are incomplete but show millions more in lobbying expenses. Lobbying efforts in cities of fewer than 50,000 people aren’t counted because they are exempt from state reporting rules.