What a difference a year makes.
After New York voters approved four upstate casinos last November, four Atlantic City casinos have closed, gambling profits plunged from Connecticut to Mississippi, and new casinos opened or were greenlighted in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
That increasingly unsettled, crowded market has casino developers and gambling opponents alike speculating that state regulators may award three licenses instead of the four authorized in the 2013 referendum.
“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, member of a group fighting plans for a casino in East Greenbush near Albany. “Just because you can award four doesn’t mean you should.”
The state board reviewing casino pitches is expected to make its decisions later this month, with 16 proposals vying for licenses to be split among three areas: the Capital District, the Finger Lakes/Southern Tier and the Catskills/Hudson Valley.
Nowhere in New York is the competition for a license as fierce as the Catskills/Hudson Valley region, where nine projects have been proposed for Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties. The region was seen as the most likely to receive two licenses, and the possibility that one could be withheld worries some local officials, who are anxious to bring jobs and tourism to economically struggling areas.
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro wants to see two casinos in the region: a large destination resort complex in the Catskills and a smaller facility in Orange County.
“You’re seeing casinos fail in areas where they’re saturated,” he said. “We think this region can support two.”
But several developers have warned that a casino in Orange County, with its proximity to New York City, would make it almost impossible for a casino to work in Ulster or Sullivan.