The fourth and largest of the New York casinos granted gaming licenses opened Thursday in Sullivan County. Elected officials and casino executives hailed the opening of Resorts World Catskills as a long-awaited day for the rebirth of the region. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne was there for the 8 a.m. opening.
Middletown resident AJ Druce was first in line on one side of the double entrance.
“It’s going to be good for the economy, a lot of jobs for people, and I’m excited to be here and I’m sure a lot of other people are, too, so looking forward to it. Really nice, they did a beautiful job,” Druce says. “Now all they got to do now is legalize marijuana and the state can make a lot of money.”
But Kim Moss from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, on the other side said she was first.
“I want to be here because I’ve never been to a grand opening,” says Moss. “It looked like an amazing casino and I just wanted to kind of be the first in the door and get here and hopefully be the first to get a marquees card or whatever you call the, yeah.”
Charles Degliomini is executive vice president of Resorts World Catskills.
“The resurgence of Sullivan County and the Catskills starts today,” Degliomini says.
Luis Alvarez is Sullivan County Legislature chairman.
“It’s in Sullivan County. It’s like Las Vegas-style of a building here in Sullivan County,” Alvarez says. “And they said it never was going to happen. Well, it happened. It’s here.”
Alvarez says there is already a noticeable difference in the county in the past six months, with more businesses and traffic. New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.
“I am tired of people talking of the glory days of the Catskills and the Borscht Belt in the past tense,” Hochul says. “Today, we’re talking about the future. And there was a time when this area had over 500 hotels. This was the premier destination for New Yorkers in the summer of the ‘50s, the ‘60s, the ‘70s. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are back, and we’re back with attractions like never before.”
She says attractions like Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Resorts World Catskills President and CEO Ryan Eller says construction of the casino resort yielded more than 3,000 union jobs. And there are about 1,400 casino resort employees, mainly full-time. Hiring continues. The $1.2 billion resort campus has an 18-story hotel, casino and entertainment complex with more than 150 Las Vegas-style table games, 2,150 slot machines and various bars and restaurants. And 30 percent of the 100,000-square foot casino floor is dedicated to Asian gaming, a niche Eller believes will give his casino an edge in what analysts say is a saturated market.
“This is the only casino in New York state that has specifically designed a portion of its casino floor to be particularly attractive to Asians,” says Eller. “Not only that, this goes beyond being a little bit attractive, this is designed with that process in mind of being completely Asian–centric.”
He says Town of Thompson-based Resorts World Catskills is the closest to New York City and has a fundamentally different market than the other casinos in New York. Republican John Bonacic chairs the state Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.
“This resort for the people in Sullivan County, who have been waiting 40 years, by the way, will give them hope, will give them opportunity and hopefully enable them to have a better quality of life for the benefits that a resort would bring,” Bonacic says.
Resorts World Catskills joins Tioga Downs Casino & Resort in the Southern Tier; del Lego Resort & Casino in the Finger Lakes; and Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, which celebrated its first anniversary Thursday.
After the ribbon cutting, there was a Lion Dance, meant to bring good fortune.