No casino for Orange

Hudson Valley winner: Kiamesha Lake casino at former Concord site

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By Nathan Mayberg

— The bouncing ball in the roulette wheel landed on the town of Thompson Wednesday, ending months of speculation about which Hudson Valley town would be allowed a casino.

Thompson, in Sullivan County, was the region's lone winner. The New York State Gaming Commission's Facility Location Board made the announcement at the former Concord Hotel, where the casino will be sited.

The decision ends a decades-long chase in Sullivan County that started with the prospect of Native American-run casinos. A statewide referendum in 2013, in which voters approved the idea of legal casinos, led to this latest development.

In announcing their decision, members of the Gaming Facility Location Board cited the economic impact a casino could have in Sullivan County, a distressed area and former tourism destination as a reason for supporting a casino there.

“It has the potential to help revive a once thriving resort area,” board member Stuart Rabinowitz said.

Chairman Kevin Law said that placing a casino in Orange County would result in the “cannibalization” of a casino in Sullivan County.

Casino representatives and supporters in Sullivan County had warned that a casino in Orange County, closer to New York City, would harm their interests.

Rabinowitz said that by restricting a casino in Sullivan County, it would allow Montreign Resort Casino to build out its “preferred scenario” of an 18-story hotel, 86,300 square feet casino with 61 gaming tables, 2,150 slot machines, 391 hotel rooms and a water park and a revamped golf course. Approximately 1,209 full-time jobs are being projected.

Orange County's inclusion in the Upstate Economic Development Act as a potential casino site surprised many and led to six separate casino proposals. Genting, the Malaysian gambling company, wanted to build in Tuxedo and Montgomery. The Tuxedo casino proposal brought a wave of protests from environmental groups because of its proximity to Sterling Forest State Park.

K.T. Lim, who controls Genting, also maintains a majority interest in Empire Resorts, which is developing the casino as part of a partnership with EPR Properties in Thompson.

Casinos were also proposed for the town of Newburgh, village of South Blooming Grove, and village of Woodbury.

The village of Kiryas Joel sued South Blooming Grove and Woodbury for allegedly promising much-coveted sewer capacity to the casino operators before reviewing the effect their proposals would have on the environment. Kiryas Joel claimed that the municipalities promised the casino operators sewer capacity in exchange for promises of millions of dollars in compensation.

In Tuxedo, the big winners will apparently be the consultants who were paid with money provided by Genting to assist Tuxedo in the review of Genting's application. The consultants included a public relations firm, LAKPR, which is being paid $20,000 a month, as well as a law firm and engineers.

Tuxedo Supervisor Mike Rost issued a statement through LAKPR in which he said “we are proud that we met our obligation to explore a unique opportunity for the future of our town. I am also proud that we conducted our due diligence with openness and transparency, and I’m deeply gratified by the rigorous participation of the Town Board, Tuxedo residents and the respect shown for all points of view. In accepting today’s decision, we recognize that we continue to face real challenges under a new set of circumstances. I am confident that Tuxedo will come together and meet these challenges with the same resiliency and determination that have always characterized our community.”

“It’s a great day for Empire Resorts, the resilient residents of Sullivan County, and our co-developer EPR Properties,” said Emanuel Pearlman, Empire’s Chairman. “Today’s decision by the Board is an important next step as we finalize our plans to attract tourism to Upstate New York and create thousands of good paying jobs as well as new revenue for local businesses. We thank the Board for their hard work in vetting these applications, and their decision is very much valued and appreciated. After receiving all final regulatory approvals, we will break ground as soon as possible on what will truly be a Catskills destination reborn.”

Town of Thompson Supervisor William Rieber said "we're delighted in the decision of the committee."

Rieber said he is glad that Montreign received the license because it will protect the horsemen at Monticello Casino and Raceway where a harness track operates.

"It's going to be the start of what it takes to bring the county to what it was," he said.

Rieber is hopeful the casino will bring fair and living wages to the town, help rebuild infrastructure and improve schools.

“It’s a great day for Empire Resorts, the resilient residents of Sullivan County, and our co-developer EPR Properties,” said Emanuel Pearlman, Empire Resort's chairman.

“Today’s decision by the board is an important next step as we finalize our plans to attract tourism to upstate New York and create thousands of good paying jobs as well as new revenue for local businesses," Pearlman stated.

"After receiving all final regulatory approvals, we will break ground as soon as possible on what will truly be a Catskills destination reborn.”

Woodbury Mayor Mike Queenan said he was "extremely disappointed" in the decision. Queenan said he would be calling on the state to move forward on the Exit 131 interchange project to help alleviate traffic issues. Queenan said he had hoped that a proposal for a casino in Woodbury by Caesar's would have hastened such work. The village also stood to gain millions in payments from Caesar's, he said. "It would have been a great relief."

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus issued a statement in which he said “While we are disappointed with today’s outcome, Orange County has a bright future ahead of it. As the second-fastest-growing county in the state, we are a community open for business with a tremendous upside thanks to our skilled workforce, high quality of life, scenic views, and proximity to New York City. Today was a victory for all New Yorkers concerned about reducing the costs of living in the Empire State. Commercial gaming will provide the Hudson Valley and other regions with additional millions in education aid and property tax relief.”

State Senator John Bonacic (R-C-Mount Hope), whose district includes Tuxedo and Sullivan County said “there have been many false starts on the broken road leading to this moment. For fifty years, the Sullivan County Catskills have sought gaming as a way to grow our tourism-based economy. And now that moment is here, with this resort destination facility, which will drive investment and job creation, not only in Sullivan County, but also surrounding counties for generations to come."

Monroe-Woodbury School Board President Jonathan Horvath said a casino "would have brought us more money but I'm not sure if would have helped the community."

Assemblyman-elect Karl Brabenec (R-C-Deerpark), who will represent Tuxedo, issued a statement as well. “While casino gaming would never be the type of economic panacea our state and region need to rebuild our sluggish economy, it would have led to a boost in local revenue and job creation that our area needs and I’m disappointed that Orange County was overlooked in this process," he said.

The Facility Location Board also chose a site in Schenectady for a casino developed by Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor and Lago Resort and Casino in Tire, a small town in Seneca County.

Reporter Nathan Mayberg can be reached by email at or by calling 845-469-9000 ext. 359.

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