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Legislature to consider casino tax breaks; role of IDA to be defined

County chairman Scott Samuelson and Roberta Byron Lockwood, president of the Sullivan County Visitors Association, listen as Marc Baez, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Department of Economic Development explains his organizations’ efforts to support the four resort-casino projects proposed for the county.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
May 5, 2014

At a meeting of the Sullivan County Casino Impacts Committee at the government center on May 5, legislator Alan Sorensen, chair of the committee, said the county legislator would be discussing the role of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) regarding the possible establishment of one or possibly two casino resorts in the county.

This comes after legislators in Orange County adopted a resolution opposing tax breaks for the proposed casino-resorts in that county.

A document on the website of the New York State Gaming Commission addresses the impact that tax incentives will have on the evaluation of any specific project. It says, “While nothing in statute or Request for Application (RFA) directly prevents use of applicable state and local economic development programs, a factor for the graded RFA evaluation is economic impact and a subsidized application will likely illustrate diminished economic impacts when competitively evaluated.”

Sorensen said in his view, the inclusion of IDA tax incentives, at least for the casino resort itself, would be a negative factor, though he would be open to considering tax incentive programs for other projects that might be related to the casino resort.

Sorensen’s announcement came after a meeting of the legislature on May, when tax breaks were also discussed. Sorensen noted that the Empire/EPR project at the site of the Concord Hotel bad been granted significant tax breaks under the IDA Destination Resort program, but that occurred before the vote in November 2013, when voters approved the creation of non-Indian casinos.

Legislator Ira Steingart, who is also the chairman of the IDA Board, said there had been no other applications for similar tax breaks from other organizations, but if and when they are made, the IDA would consider whether those projects are applicable and perform a cost/benefit analysis.

Legislator Cindy Geiger said, “Once the gaming commission makes the determination of who is going to operate in Sullivan County, wouldn’t that put the county in the driver’s seat at that point, and would we have to give the benefit at all?”

Sorensen said, “I would ask that the IDA consider a carve-out for a casino operation, which is different than a destination resort in my eyes.” He said one of the goals of the Request for Applications (RFA) to operate the casinos is to maximize revenue to the state and localities. He said, “I interpret locality to be county, town, school district, so my concern is if you abate 100% of those projects, those projects in Orange County are going to be more competitive.”