Completing a long process, the New York Gaming Commission finally handed out three casino licenses Monday, marking the next milestone in the expansion of land-based gambling in the Empire State. The commercial casinos were authorized by a bill back in 2012, but it took until a year ago for three casinos to finally receive approval. Those three casinos – Montreign, Rivers Casino, and Lago Resort & Casino – now officially have their licenses.
Montreign is the largest, located just outside Monticello in the Catskills (not to be confused with Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia), the same spot as the former Concord Resort. In December 2014, when the application was approved, Montreign was said to be a $630 million project, complete with 18-story hotel, a waterpark, and all the trappings of a Las Vegas-style gambling resort. According to the New York Times this week, though, that price tag has been doubled to $1.3 billion.
Empire Resorts will own and operate Montreign. Empire CEO Manny Pearlman told The New York Times, “I’m just happy for the company and the people of Sullivan County. It’s been a long time coming.”
About 90 miles north of New York City, the resort is in an area of affluence, which could work out very well for Empire. While the casino will likely be a regional destination at first, the company aims to make it an international vacation destination.
Further north is the Rivers Casino in Schenectady, which will come with a $300 million price tag. The third casino, Lago Resort & Casino, will be situated in western New York in Tyre, located between Syracuse and Rochester. Lago will cost $425 million to build. All are expected to open in 2017.
There are already nine “racinos” and five tribal casinos in the state of New York, but these three will be the first sprawling, Las Vegas-style resort casinos in the state. Competition is fierce in the northeastern United States, with New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and even states further south like Maryland all having strong brick-and-mortar gambling industries. According to the New York Times, there are 41 casinos and racinos in the region.
Peter Trombetta, a Moody’s analyst, said, “A lot of the new casinos are going to take market share from existing casinos. That’s what’s happening elsewhere.”
Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, which is near where the Lago Resort & Casino is being built, knows this and is already scaling down its operations in anticipation of a loss of business. It also feels that it has been unfairly treated, as it says that because of the inconsistent state gambling laws, it is forced to pay 79 percent in taxes on its slot revenues, while Lago and the other two giant casinos will only pay 37 percent.
One of the main goals behind the authorization of the new casinos is to prevent gambling customers from leaving the state for their entertainment. The state has said that its residents spend $1 billion annually at out-of-state casinos.