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December 08, 2016
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Sullivan wants two casinos; Initiatives to sway the gaming commission

Legislators Ira Steingart, left, Jonathan Rouis and Alan Sorensen are members of the sub-committee on casinos created by the Sullivan County Legislature.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

MONTICELLO, NY — With two different groups expressing interest in building a casino in Orange County, and with the proposed project in Ellenville in Ulster County seen as a serious proposal, officials in Sullivan County are moving to maximize the chance of getting at least one and perhaps two casinos in Sullivan.

The Sullivan County Casino Impacts Sub-Committee held its first public meeting on March 11 at the government center, and various officials pledged they would organize a sustained effort to ensure that Sullivan gets a casino or two.

Legislator Jonathan Rouis said, “Those of us who have worked on this issue and believe in what the county has to offer, believe we are the best spot… and we have to work to make that case.”

The ultimate decision will be made by a five-member Gaming Facility Location Board, which will evaluate the proposals and ultimately choose which projects will be awarded the four licenses that will be available. The members of the board will be appointed by the New York State Gaming Commission.

According to information provided by State Sen. John Bonacic, who is chair of the Senate Committee on Racing, Wagering and Gaming, members of the board may not hold elective or appointed office in local, federal or state government, and must have extensive experience in financial matters.

The decision about which locations will be successful will be based 70% on economic factors, such as the number of jobs a project will create and the amount of capital investment and the time to completion; it will be based 20% on local impact factors such as public support of host municipalities and partnership with local businesses; and it will be based 10% on workforce enhancement factors such as “using sustainable development principals” and “utilizing existing labor force.”

Legislator Alan Sorensen, a former county planning commissioner, said, “It’s almost like a grant application—notice of funding availability, so we have to put the best application together that we can, that means taking a thorough look at proposals here in Sullivan County, and making sure that they are the best and that they can compete with any other proposals that may come from other counties in the state.”

Sorensen said one of the important criteria for the selection of the location will be a resort where the visitor will have a very positive experience. He said the county has a lot to offer visitors: “We have the Upper Delaware, we have Catskill Park; we have the Neversink Unique Area. On a family vacation if they come to a resort, they can spend a week here and still not be able to exhaust all the benefits.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Paula Medley, president of the Basha Kill Area Association, urged the committee members not to support the casino project being planned for the

Shawangunk Ridge, called the Shawanga Lodge Casino. She said the project would not be good for Sullivan’s chances of luring two casinos, “because of environmental factors, that it’s on the Shawangunk Ridge, which is in the priority conservation project in the state’s open space plan.” To date that is the only negative comment on any of the proposed casinos in the county.

The committee said it would urge the full legislature to pass a resolution supporting the objective of having two resort casinos in the county, though individual projects will not be endorsed at this time.

Casino locations are expected to be formally announced sometime this fall.