The New York Gaming Facility Location Board will convene a meeting at 2pm Eastern Time today to decide which casinos may apply for up to four private licenses in three regions of Upstate New York. Four projects are proposed in the Capital regions (Albany-Saratoga areas), the Southern Tier has three bidders with one of them vying for a location in the Finger Lakes, and nine projects are proposed for the Orange County (mid-Hudson Valley) – Catskills region. The casinos were authorized by voters last year and all applications were received by June of this year. When chosen, the winning casinos will offer the first true Las Vegas style gambling in the state as opposed to current lottery-server run racinos and tribal properties.
Proposals have been submitted by industry heavyweights such as Caesars, Resorts World (Genting), Mohegan Sun, and Hard Rock, as well as hopefuls including the wine country owners of Howe Caverns, who hope to build a casino at the Schoharie County show cave, and the Walsh family, with plans to build their Traditions Casino & Resort near Binghamton.
The largest of the proposals comes from Genting Americas, the operator of the Resorts World New York lottery-slots casino at Aqueduct, in Jamaica. Their proposal to build a $1.5 billion dollar facility less than 50 miles from Manhattan in Tuxedo may not win approval simply by virtue of being huge and potentially making an economic impact larger than some other proposals for the region. Local support must be demonstrated in the region and many are strongly opposed to the environmental impact of such a gargantuan proposal in the pristine countryside. Things in Genting’s favor include the decision weighting process that lends 70% to the economic activity and potential business development, and only 20% to local impact factors including community support. The remaining 10% of the decision is to be based on “workforce enhancement factors.”
The decision weighting factors may also play a role in the Gaming Facility Location Board only accepting only three candidates to apply to the Gaming Commission for Gaming Facility Licenses. When the decision for one region is balanced against the top contenders in a nearby region the process becomes more difficult for them. For instance, the proposed Nevele Hotel Ulster casino would have a hard time surviving if a license is granted in Orange County siphoned all of their available market. Mohegan Sun has also lobbied the media and locals hard for their Sullivan County Concord Casino to be free of competition from the affluent Orange County. So it is entirely possible the Board will only grant one license for that region.
The law authorizing the casino expressly forbids the Location Board from being lobbied directly. Even so, more than $11 million had been spent on lobbying and campaign contributions through 2013. Numbers for this year are not yet available but could easily eclipse that. State law does not require the reporting of lobby expenses in cities and towns with populations under 50,000 so the true dollars may never be known.
A decision is expected soon after the board convenes. We’ll be watching the live feed and report on the winners as soon as they are announced. Follow along on our Facebook page as each region is announced.