Gaming complex may not need legislative approval

February 12, 2008 7:35:41 AM PST
It appears a proposed $700 million gaming complex planned for the Catskills won't have to go through the New York State legislature. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says it looks like the plan only needs the approval of the state Racing and Wagering Board. Silver said the proposal is "interesting" and could be productive for Sullivan County.

Empire Resorts says it has an agreement with Concord Associates to relocate the Monticello Gaming and Raceway as part of the project at the historic Concord Hotel.

The plan includes a gaming area, convention center, hotel, golf resort, retail stores, restaurants and other entertainment venues.

Construction on the 160-acre site is scheduled to begin this year, with a planned 2010 opening. The site is 90 miles northwest of New York City.

Silver's lack of opposition is significant for the project. He summers in the Catskills and is the Albany leader who has been most reluctant to expand gambling.

Developers are saying the 1.5 million-square foot facility will more than double the $70 million Empire now pays the state each year from gambling revenue.

The plan calls for the gaming floor to be built in the hotel and the harness track nearby would be refurbished to become a top racing facility, the developers said.

"The creation of thousands of jobs will permeate throughout the entire upstate economy and bring the former Concord Hotel back to its glory as one of the region's truly great convention, destination and resort hotels," said Louis R. Cappelli, managing member of Concord Associates.

Last week, the Mohawk tribe at the St. Regis reservation in northern New York said Empire was dropping the tribe from its plans for the site. Empire said then that it wasn't abandoning its work with the Mohawks, but was exploring other options.

State law already allows video slot machines in the "racino" at Monticello and other harness tracks, but the state constitution prohibits traditional slot machines and many other popular casino games unless they are owned by an Indian tribe.