Upstate NY Casino Licenses Issued

Dec 22, 2015

State gambling regulators Monday approved licenses for three casinos in Upstate New York.
Credit NYS Gaming Commission

After a year of planning, yesterday it was made official: the New York Gaming Commission awarded three casino licenses, including one for Sullivan County and another for Schenectady. 

The state Gaming Commission on Monday formally awarded licenses for Lago Resort & Casino in the Seneca County town of Tyre,  Montreign Resort Casino in the Sullivan County town of Thompson, and The Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady.

A location board endorsed the sites a year ago. Since that time, the state has been conducting  background checks of developers and reviewing final details of the casino plans.

Lago is on track to become the jewel of the Finger Lakes region and will lay claim to being the state's largest casino resort. Brent Stevens, CEO of Peninsula Pacific, is a partner in the Lago project. He tells Time Warner News:  "We're looking forward to creating the jobs we promised we'd create; creating the economic development for the entire region and for our community."

The Oneida Nation, which runs the Turning Stone casino and resort some 80 miles away in Verona, has been opposed to Lago from the get-go and plans a court challenge to the licensure.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente tells the Utica Observer-Dispatch he believes the Nation has “every right and purpose” to pursue legal action. The county receives roughly $12.5 million from Turning Stone’s slot revenues. According to the paper, Picente has been against Lago’s plans from the beginning.

In the Catskills, hopes of building a casino to enhance the local economy can be traced back to the 1990's. Montreign is expected to include an Indoor Waterpark Lodge complete with a hotel, indoor and outdoor water parks, an “Entertainment Village” and a golf course. Sullivan County Legislator-elect Luis Alvarez tells The River Reporter economic activity in Liberty could already be seen because people working at the resort have filled the hotels in the village.

In the Capital Region, the Rivers site has been described as "shovel-ready." Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy addressed the media Monday afternoon at City Hall.

McCarthy expects to now move "full speed ahead with the actual construction" that will see the Rivers open early in 2017.  State officials say the next step involves the creation of gaming rules and regulations for each of the three casinos.

Some recent studies argue the preponderance of gaming halls (including established racinos) will trigger "market oversaturation." McCarthy is unfazed. He points to shifting market that has been "re-basing itself."    "where you've moved away from the two destinations where you had Atlantic City and you had Las Vegas, and now you're going to regional facilities. And again, the market study shows that a casino in Schenectady will be successful. The Rush Street team is one of the best in the country, and their strength really is not only they are in the casino business, but they're real estate developers. So that they understand their role beyond just that of running a casino. It's part of the package that was successful in Schenectady, that cross-marketing of the casino, with the investments that have already been made in Schenectady, with Proctors Theater, with the arts and entertainment district, it's about downtown, and we're going to continue to build on that, so that the casino is very important, but it is just another component of the ongoing growth of this community in this region."

Some opponents argue that with the casino come problem gamblers and social ills.  But on Monday, McCarthy remained positive just after the licenses came down.    "Some of these same points were raised when a racino was put in Saratoga Springs. They've been able to adapt to that in a seamless manner. We have a good management team in place, are going to work with the developer, first of all to minimize the negative impacts, and then be able to address whatever situations are appropriate for the city's follow-up, so that they're successful and again it's for positive impact, not only in the city but the region."

In October, a fourth casino license was OKed for Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier. It wasn't voted on on Monday but is expected to be issued in 2016.  Casino operators have 30 days to pay the state a $50 million licensing fee, then will have two years from the effective date to construct a facility.

Oneida Indian Nation Statement

"The New York State Gaming Commission’s announcement is the predictable outcome of a process that was predetermined to reach this result. This decision was marred by conflicts of interest, contradictory standards and total disregard for public interest. The outcome hurts Central New York, which violates Governor Cuomo’s stated purposes of the gaming law.  For months, countless community and business leaders, elected officials and individual New Yorkers have spotlighted these problems to the gaming commission. Unfortunately, the decision was forced through by public officials who were blindly committed to this project and abandoned the public trust.  We are left with no choice but to turn to the courts.  Litigation is necessary when public officials abandon their public responsibilities."