Resorts World Catskills opens after 40-year wait
By mid-morning on February 8, a healthy crowd had gathered at Resorts World Catskills, and the sights and sounds of a Las Vegas-style casino came to life. A member of staff announced that a woman had just won $10,000 as the lights, bells and whistles associated with more than 2000 slot machines sounded off in the background.
Billed as a $1.2 billion dollar facility, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, via video recording at the ribbon cutting ceremony, that this was the largest investment made in the Catskills in decades and perhaps for all time. He said that local citizens were saying the Catskills needed a casino back in the 1970s, when New Jersey decided to allow casino gaming in Atlantic City, and he said, “you were right.”
Several speakers referenced the “glory days” of the Catskills in their remarks. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “I am tired of people talking about the glory days of the Catskills and the Borscht Belt in the past tense. Today we’re talking about the future. There was time when this area had over 500 hotels, this was the premiere destination for New Yorkers in summer in the 50s the 60s and the 70s. Well ladies and gentlemen we are back.
In describing how he felt on this day, State Senator John Bonacic said, “I’m a Yankee fan, if you Yanks had won the World Series yesterday, I’m a Giants football fan, if they had won the Super Bowl yesterday, the joy in my heart would be so much greater than those two victories happening.”
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther said she had been trying to bring casino gaming to Sullivan County for 15 years, and it was an effort that began with her late husband Jake Gunther whose seat in the assembly she later won.
Ryan Eller, the CEO of Empire Resorts, which owns and operates the casino, said, “As impressive as this complex is, no amount of money spent, no amount of steel and concrete, no number of slot machines, quite compares or is as impressive as the vision and will that it took to bring this project to its fruition."
The largest investor in Empire Resorts is Malaysian billionaire KT Lim, chair and CEO of Genting Group, which owns gaming resorts around the world. Lim participated in the ribbon cutting.
The casino will have 1500 employees when fully staffed, a process that is now underway. And when the water park is opened in 2019, the number of employees is expected to grow to more than 2000.