Hudson Valley Becoming a Gaming, Recreation Destination

John Jordan | August 2017

A rendering of the Resorts World Catskills resort set to open in March 2018.

A new emerging sector of the Hudson Valley’s economy is taking shape and 2018 could be a landmark moment in time when the region, known for its highly popular tourism destinations and quality of life, will see a new $1.2-billion casino resort open its doors in Sullivan County. In addition, if municipal approvals are secured, construction could begin next year on the $500-million LEGOLAND New York theme park in Orange County.

Officials with Empire Resorts announced recently that its $1.2-billion Resorts World Catskills casino resort will open for business in March 2018. The development, currently under construction in the Town of Thompson will feature an 18-story casino, hotel and entertainment complex with approximately 100,000 square feet of casino floor, more than 100 table games, 2,150 state of the art slot machines, a poker room and private gaming salons. Guest amenities at the resort will include 332 all-suite luxury rooms, which include 12 penthouse suites, eight garden suites and seven two-story villas, two indoor pools, a spa and fitness center—all designed to meet 5-star and 5-diamond standards. Guests will be able to choose from over 10 varied bar and restaurant experiences, including fine dining, and an Italian steakhouse created by celebrity chef Scott Conant. Guest can also enjoy year-round live entertainment at the more than 2,000-seat event center, casino bars, restaurants and lounges.

The destination resort will also include an entertainment village and is scheduled to open in late 2018 that will provide additional entertainment, food and accommodations. A Rees Jones-redesigned golf course is expected to open in the spring of 2019. In addition, the destination resort will include an indoor waterpark lodge.

The development has employed well over 1,000 construction workers since it broke ground.

Empire Resorts, the parent company of Resorts World Catskills, has promised that its development would seek to hire resort workers from throughout the region. Recently, the gaming concern fulfilled its promise when it announced it would be operating three casino dealer schools in Sullivan, Orange and Ulster counties. The dealer schools will be used to train people to enable them to apply for table games dealer positions at Resorts World Catskills. The schools will be located in Monticello in Sullivan County, Stewart Airport in New Windsor in Orange County and Ellenville in Ulster County. All table game classes will be free of charge for students.

In advance of the dealer school openings, Resorts World Catskills held information sessions in these three Hudson Valley counties to provide details about the casino dealer schools and the manner in which interested individuals may register for classes. Resorts World Catskills expects to hire approximately 600 dealers prior to opening its doors to the public in March 2018.

“I’m pleased to note that we have great workforce development support from Sullivan County Legislative Chairman Luis Alvarez, and Orange and Ulster County Executives Steve Neuhaus and Mike Hein as we begin the process of providing information regarding job opportunities at our resort casino,” said Charles Degliomini, executive vice president of Empire Resorts. “Creating good paying jobs was the initial objective of the Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act, and after years of waiting we are close to realizing this important goal.”

People who register for dealer school will be provided 20 hours of training per week for a minimum of six weeks for core games such as blackjack, poker, baccarat and roulette. Additional training will be required for more complex games. Once training is successfully completed, students can apply, and will have to interview and audition, for table game dealer positions.

The new casino resort will compliment the already highly successful Empire City Casino in Yonkers, one of the largest entertainment and gaming destinations in the Northeast. The facility features 5,300 slots machines and electronic table games. Empire City Casino also offers guests year-round harness racing and International simulcasting, live entertainment, restaurants and more.

If plans are approved, the Hudson Valley will also see the start of construction next year on a major theme park destination. In early August, the $500-million LEGOLAND New York project continues to progress in the municipal approval process. The LEGOLAND New York project calls for a theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions and a 250-room LEGOLAND Hotel. The theme park will be geared toward families with children aged two to 12 and is expected to attract between 1.5 million and 2.5 million visitors each year.

The project that would involve building a children’s theme park on 153 acres of the 523 acres of land controlled by Merlin Entertainments adjoining Route 17 in Goshen still has a number of hurdles to clear before construction can begin. The project is expected to create approximately 800 construction jobs and 500 full-time jobs and 300 part-time jobs once operational.

A key component of the proposal is the developer paying for the lion’s share of an estimated $40 million of roadway improvements on Route 17 to improve access to the theme park. The developer will initially invest $350 million in the development and a total of more than $500 million over the first five years of the theme park and resort’s operation. In December 2016, LEGOLAND New York was awarded $3 million in funding commitments from New York State’s Consolidated Funding Application program. Previously the project secured $3.1 million in committed CFA funding in 2014 and another $1 million in 2015. It should be noted that the $7.1 million in CFA funding commitments for the project thus far have yet to be funded and forwarded to Merlin since the project has not secured approvals as yet from the Town of Goshen.

In late 2015, the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. in recognition of the tremendous growth potential gaming and emerging indoor/outdoor recreation and amusement industries have in the Hudson Valley, launched the PLAY cluster initiative.

“We aren’t joking when we say the business of play is serious business,” said Laurence P. Gottlieb, HVEDC president and CEO in announcing the PLAY cluster. “Over a billion dollars in new regional projects have been announced within the past year alone in this thriving sector, and so as we’ve done in the areas of food and beverage, 3D printing and the life sciences, we see incredible opportunities to help our county economic development and tourism partners attract, retain and expand this industry, while stimulating long-term economic and occupational growth for our region.”

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth