Three Upstate Casinos Secure Licenses

John Jordan | December 22, 2015

Montreign Resort Casino

NEW YORK CITY—The clock will start ticking beginning March 1 on the prospect of legalized casino gaming in Downstate New York. However, a simple wristwatch will not suffice because the Greater New York City area, including Westchester County, will have to wait at least seven years before the state could award a license there.

On Monday (Dec. 21) the New York State Gaming Commission unanimously approved licenses to three upstate casino gaming resorts, including the $1.3-billion Montreign Resort Casino in Sullivan County.

According to a spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission, there is a seven-year exclusivity for the three upstate casinos, thus barring any new licensed casinos during that period in the Greater New York City area, which includes Westchester County. That exclusivity starts from the date the license is awarded. Monday’s approvals call for the licenses to take effect on March 1, 2016 or whenever the licensee pays the required capital investment bond/deposit and the license fee. It should also be noted that the licensed casinos must be open within 24 months of the license award or face substantial penalties.

Timothy J. Rooney, Jr. chief counsel, Empire City at Yonkers Raceway, told Real Estate In-Depth in January 2015 that it has a $1-billion master plan for its Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway complex in Yonkers. Some of that mixed-use development could be undertaken in preparation of a new round of casino gaming license competition downstate or in other words before the seven-year exclusivity mandate expires.

The New York State Gaming Commission also approved the $320-million Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady County and the $425-million Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County. The three casinos were approved by the gaming commission in December 2014 and since then were being vetted for licensure. A fourth facility, Tioga Downs Casino Racing and Entertainment in Nichols, NY was later selected by the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board and is currently undergoing the commission’s licensing review process.

“New York State will soon realize the economic benefits of resort gaming destinations,” commission Executive Director Robert Williams states. “These projects will create thousands of jobs, bring much-needed economic development to long-stressed communities and drive revenue to support schools and local governments—with zero taxpayer dollars.”

The largest casino project by far is the Montreign Resort Casino to be built at the planned Adellar four-season resort in the Town of Thompson in the Catskills region. The $1.3-billion Montreign Resort Casino is being developed by Empire Resorts, Inc. and EPR Properties. The project will include a 90,000-square-foot casino floor featuring 2,150 slot machines, 102 table games and a 14 to 16 table poker room; an 18-story hotel tower containing 332 luxury rooms, indoor pools and fitness center; a VIP floor containing six private VIP gaming salons, a private gaming cage, butler service; 27,000 square feet of multi-purpose meeting and entertainment space; a 7,500-square-foot spa; seven restaurants and four bars.

The Adelaar is expected to include an indoor waterpark lodge including a hotel, indoor and outdoor water parks, and amenities; an “entertainment village” with dining facilities, entertainment and retail shops and a renovated 18-hole Monster golf course designed by Rees Jones.

Site clearing work has been underway at the 1,700-acre site. Now that the license has been secured, Empire Resort officials say construction can now begin in earnest on the Montreign casino.

“This is a historic day for our company, for the people of Sullivan County and for the entire Mid-Hudson region, and I thank the NYSGC for their hard work and dedication in completing a fair and comprehensive licensing process,” states Empire Resorts chairman of the board Emanuel Pearlman. “With the awarding of a gaming facility license by the NYSGC, we can expeditiously move forward and construct a resort destination that is more than just a casino; rather, it is a part of a $1.3-billion fully master-planned, sustainable, integrated gaming and destination resort.”

New York State Senator John Bonacic said of the Montreign’s casino license approval, “I am confident that this resort will be the beginning of an economic renaissance for the Catskills. Congratulations to the Town of Thompson, Sullivan County, and all the other counties that will benefit from this resort when it is built and operating.”

New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther told the Middletown Times-Herald Record, “The people of Sullivan County have exemplified patience,” she said. “Forty years and countless stops and starts, but today, we’re realizing the dream of generations …”

Based on the estimates of the licensees, the three approved casinos are expected to generate $212 million annually for education statewide, and each eligible region and the host county/municipality will receive between $8 million and $10.3 million annually. Licensing fees will produce $151 million in revenue for the state.

Photo Caption: A rendering of the Montreign Resort Casino in the Town of Thompson, NY.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth