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Sullivan County casinos

By Charlie Barbuti
June 11, 2014

To be…

It was called the “Upstate Gaming Economic Development act of 2013”. That is the law that was passed by the New York State legislature and was approved in a public referendum by the voters last November. The law contained criteria that had to be met in order to be awarded a casino license and the process was defined. A Casino Selection Board would be appointed and generate the request for applications for the coveted licenses. Applications would be returned and the committee would make their selection, based on the criteria, by the fall of 2014. After over 40 years of talk, casinos in the Catskills were on the horizon. The governor visited Sullivan County and took a victory lap for making this happen. Developers came to Sullivan County and began planning beautiful resort casinos that would be the perfect fit for the mountains. Finally the folks in Sullivan County could see a bright light at the end of a very long tunnel.

...or not to be

The recent “clarifications” by the Casino Selection Board resulted in the Sullivan County Casino projects struggling to get the required financing needed to put in their applications by June 30th. Many investors feel that even if a Sullivan County applicant is successful in obtaining one of the sought-after casino licenses, an Orange County casino would doom the Sullivan casino to failure.

Rumors started flying about our casinos pulling out due to the lack of financing. One Sullivan County project has withdrawn and the Foxwoods project in Liberty is going down to the wire still unable to obtain financing at this late date.

As a community leader, I intended to ask the selection board to allow “contingent” applications. I hoped that if a project were allowed to withdraw its application should an Orange County site be chosen, developers would stand a better chance of obtaining financing. The selection board has already ruled and there will be no contingent applications. “No” is not acceptable. Someone needs to explain to me and all the finance people how the law can reach its clearly stated goals with an Orange County Casino Award—Orange, a county where the evidence shows that public support is split, to say the least, and the need for economic development is hard to show. At the Foxwoods store location in Liberty, Orange County citizens have been coming to sign support letters and petitions to locate the casinos in Sullivan.