A town board in Orange County is backing the concept of locating a casino minutes from the New York State Thruway. This came during a special board meeting Thursday evening to hear a presentation from the developer.
According to a state gambling panel, 22 applications for casino proposals were submitted by the April 23 deadline, all accompanied by the required $1 million fee. Some entries were last-minute, at least in the public eye. One is from Saratoga Casino and Raceway, which proposes an estimated $670 million development called the Hudson Valley Casino and Resort. Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus says his county was not even in play six months ago, but now has six applications vying for a casino license.
“The sixth one will be, I think, put in the open very shortly,” says Neuhaus.
Asked whether he has a favorite, Neuhaus, who has put together a casino task force, replies:
“I don’t,” says Neuhaus. “I’m weighing each one of them because it’s so early. I feel like I’m on six different town boards right now because there’s some pros and cons with each site.”
Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados, whose district includes Newburgh, supports the proposal for his town.
“I mean all of a sudden we became a very hot commodity, but naturally it makes sense because of our proximity to New York City and certainly the fact that we have an airport that is underutilized and it will take a whole new meaning,” Skartados says. “I’m very excited about this whole project.”
The Newburgh Town Board Thursday unanimously approved a resolution in support of the casino’s development, noting it was supporting the casino in concept only. Here’s Acting Newburgh Town Supervisor Gil Piaquadio:
“It’s a great site for it. It’s an industrial site, no residences at all, right off the highway,” says Piaquadio. “I think it’s a natural. I think we’d be foolish to say no to it, or not have a chance at getting it.”
The Hudson Valley Casino and Resort would boast some 150,000 square feet of gaming space, a 500-room hotel, dining, entertainment venues, and 20,000 square feet dedicated to high-end retail, all on a 70-acre site on Route 17K, just off Interstates 84 and 87, and minutes from Stewart International Airport. After the presentation, a verbal battle erupted between Town Councilman Paul Ruggiero and town resident Tom Knieser. Ruggiero says each is entitled to his opinion. Knieser says he plans to continue to voice his opposition.
“And I know that they are not the panacea, they are not the promise of pie-in-the-sky,” says Knieser. “They’re going to build a building 12 stories high in the flight path of Stewart. People come into casinos, they don’t go out; they don’t spend money in the area, right? They’re going to set up shops, bars, restaurants within the casino. Why would people go into the city, into the town.”
Facing local opposition, Saratoga Casino abandoned plans to expand its site in the Spa City. Spokeswoman Rita Cox says the company’s proposed casino on Route 17k is designed to showcase the Hudson Valley region, and complement rather than compete with any casino that is built in the Catskills.
“If we do a good job of showing off the region to the people that come through our doors, they’re going to see all of the great assets that are already here, and it’s going to make them want to come back again and again to experience the entire area,” Cox says.
Of the reportedly dozen casino proposals for the Catskills and Hudson Valley region, Ulster County is the focus of one proposal – the redevelopment of the Nevele in Wawarsing. Democratic Ulster County Executive Mike Hein says the number of proposals in play for Orange County changes the interpretation of upstate and downstate.
“It would create a border between upstate and downstate and put a lid on downstate tourism – the 22 million people that live in the metro New York area and the 50 million people that travel to the metro New York area on an annual basis,” says Hein. “There’s no question it would be detrimental to the upstate economy as a whole.”
New York voters in November approved a constitutional amendment permitting casino development, and four licenses at first are to be granted within three regions of the state – the Catskills and Hudson Valley; the Albany-Saratoga region; and the Southern Tier. Again, here’s Skartados.
“Well, I understand the intent of the legislation was perhaps a little bit focused toward Sullivan County, but I represent this area, and charity begins at home,” Skartados says.
Cox says the proposed casino for Newburgh would create about 2,400 construction and more than 2,500 permanent jobs and generate $37.3 million in revenue for the region annually. She says the Town of Newburgh and Orange County would each receive about $6.8 million in revenues per year. Saratoga Casino submitted another $1 million application fee for the chance to develop a resort casino in East Greenbush, across the river from Albany.