New York State upstate casino licenses

New York State’s Catskills could see up to two casinos approved, but some now fear that New York may scale back its gambling plans. (Image:

New York State’s four upstate casino licenses could be awarded as soon as next month. But there’s now talk that the state may not yet be committed to awarding all four, especially as officials begin to see the effects of a tightening casino market throughout the northeastern United States.

Currently, the New York Gaming Facility Location Board is considering 16 applicants for the four available licenses in three upstate areas. One of those areas, the Catskills/Hudson Valley, would likely receive two licenses if all four were to be awarded, as it is the most lucrative and closest to New York City.

Casino Slowdowns, Increased Competition

But considering the closures of casinos in Atlantic City, the recent awarding of licenses to two casinos in Massachusetts and another in Philadelphia, and talks of a third casino for Connecticut, some are starting to think that New York may want to slow down when it comes to building its own casino industry.

“With all the failures around the country, we don’t think New York State should be in the business of promoting this as economic development,” said Cara Benson, who is working to fight a casino proposal in East Greenbush, in the Albany area. “Just because you can award four doesn’t mean you should.”

It’s not just anti-casino forces who think the state will look at the possibility of holding back and awarding less than the maximum number of licenses.

“They could award fewer than four,” said Jeffrey Hyman, who is working on a proposal for a casino at Howe Caverns near Albany. “They’re going to decide, and they’re going to decide soon.”

Catskills/Hudson Valley Region Could Lose Second Casino

Ironically, the region that is most worried is the same one that has been the most desirable to developers in this round of licensing: the Catskills and Hudson Valley. The Catskill Mountains were once a prominent resort destination, and local officials believe that casino gambling could bring the region back to its former glory.

It was long believed that the area would almost certainly be approved for two casinos. But if New York were to decide to award only three licenses instead, it would probably mean only a single venue in the Catskills. Local officials like Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro still believe that the area can support two resorts, though, especially if one is a smaller venue that appeals more to locals.

“You’re seeing casinos fail in areas where they’re saturated,” Molinaro said. “We think this region can support two.”

Even within the region, however, there’s debate over where the casinos should go. Some developers scrapped proposals for Sullivan County, in the heart of the Catskills, because of competition that wanted to build in Orange County, a location closer to New York City. While some say two Sullivan County casinos could work, they worry that a major Orange County project would make it impossible for a second casino in Sullivan County to be successful.

Ultimately, the decision will come down to the facility location board, which means that developers can only make their best pitches and hope for the best.

“We’re not the facility location board,” said Montreign Resort Casino spokesperson Charles Degliomini. “The only thing we can do is put our project in the best light and present it as best we can. Whether they put two in our region is out of our hands.”