Governor placing bets on casinos in the Catskills

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By Jay Braman Jr.
In his state of the state address last Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for the development of no less than three and as many as seven new casinos in Upstate New York, calling the Catskills an “obvious area” for location.

And, according to the folks behind the proposed Belleayre Resort slated for Highmount, their place won’t be one of them.

Cuomo, who also noted that upstate New York has no real marketing plan, wants to tap into the New York City market where there are 8.2 million residents and increase upstate tourism by using destination resort casinos to attract city dwellers up north.

Nearby visitors
He also pointed out that 50 million tourists come to New York City every year.
“A major challenge for us and a major opportunity for us is to get that traffic from New York City to Upstate New York,” he said.

“As I said before, I believe if they visit, they will come back and they will stay, but we have to get them there. And I believe casinos in Upstate New York could be a great magnet to bring the New York City traffic up. They now go to New Jersey, they go to Connecticut, why don’t we bring them to Upstate New York? We propose a casino gaming plan to boost Upstate New York.

“We propose phase one, three casinos all in Upstate New York. No casinos in New York City because the plan is to bring downstate New Yorkers to upstate. If you put a casino in New York City, they’ll go to the New York City casino. The people who come in from out of town will go to the New York City casino. We want them going upstate and using this as a magnet to get people upstate, ” the governor continued.

Following his address, the governor told the Associated Press that the Catskills “are an obvious area” for casinos.

On Monday, Gary Gailes a Big Indian resident and member of the Crossroads Ventures team which is planning a $400-million resort that would surround Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, said that project mastermind Dean Gitter has always made it clear that there would not be a casino at the resort.

“As for casino gambling here in the Catskill Park, Dean has been on record for the last several years opposing any casinos, period,” Gailes said. “This opposition was memorialized in the 2007 Agreement In Principle signed by Crossroads together with the State of New York, NYC, and several national, regional, and local environmental organizations.

The Agreement reads: “Crossroads...will not allow the operation of Class III gaming facilities pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, at the Highmount Spa Resort and Wildacres Resort” and will be memorialized through duly recorded covenants and/or deed restrictions. It is my understanding that the reference to Class III gaming would restrict any gambling involving such things as slot machines, gaming tables, sports betting, etc., but it would allow certain charitable events, involving for example bingo, to be conducted.”

The Belleayre Resort is still under review. Gailes says Crossroads now awaits the state Department of Environmental Conservation to complete plans for the future of Belleayre so it can be reviewed along with resort, which will be connected to the ski center.