Albany Deal Sets Stage for Up to Two Catskills Casinos

ALBANY (AP/Hamodia) -

As Orthodox families began heading to the Catskills Thursday, a deal announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders was announced that could see long-discussed two casinos in the heart of Jewish areas.

The agreement will allow five resort casinos in the state, including one in the Southern Tier near Binghamton, the Hudson Valley-Catskills area and the Albany area. One region may get two casinos, and that likely will be in the Catskills, which has a tradition of resort development.

Foxwoods Resort Casino officials announced this month that they and Muss Development of New York City are prepared to build a $300 million-plus casino resort next to the former Grossinger’s Hotel, a mainstay from the Catskill’s Borscht Belt heyday a few generations ago.

Developers who plan a resort at the site of the old Concord hotel in Monticello, near dozens of Orthodox-owned bungalow colonies, had no immediate comment on the deal. In Ellenville, developers who want to build a casino resort at the old Nevele hotel said they were optimistic.

“It really sets the stage for something really special,” Nevele investor Michael Treanor said of the deal. “There are going to be a lot of people who go back to work in the region as a result of this.”

All of this is subject to a referendum in the fall. Voters will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment to overturn the ban on full-fledged casinos off Indian land. That vote isn’t certain. A Siena College poll shows New Yorkers are split on the proposal, including in New York City, where the biggest turnout is expected because of the city’s mayoral race.

The agreement prohibits casinos in Westchester and Rockland counties, in New York City and on Long Island for at least seven years, to give upstate casinos a chance to flourish.

Communities where casinos are located will share in revenues, and most of the state’s revenue would be devoted to public schools. Cuomo has estimated all casinos when in full operation will provide $1 billion a year to government.

The agreement also imposes a $500 fee on every slot machine and table game at casinos to be used to address gambling addiction.

Dr. Stephen Shafer, of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York, said the provision for funding to help problem gamblers could end up being five times more than is currently spent by the state “but it’s still not enough.”

“The problem with helping problem gamblers is that most of them don’t go for help until they have ruined their lives and the lives of people around them,” Shafer said.