Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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May 10th, 2013

Casinos Still a Crapshot

As the New York State legislative session comes to an end within the next several weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo along with our legislators in Albany are deciding if there is going to be a referendum on this November’s ballot to allow legalized casino gaming in New York State.

Under Cuomo’s proposal released this week the state would be divided into six regions, excluding Long Island, New York City, Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties from casinos, but counties where there are Indian Casinos would be included.

If the state settles ongoing disputes with Indian tribes that operate casinos, those regions would then not be included in the casino plan. But, if the state does not reach agreements with Indian tribes, the state would allow casinos to open. Either way local Counties in each region would share in the revenue stream generated.

The Hudson Valley Region includes Sullivan, Ulster, Orange, Dutchess, Columbia, Greene and Delaware Counties. Each region that wins a casino would not be able to host another casino for five years.

New York City would not be able to get a casino for five years, because Cuomo wants them placed upstate to generate tourism.

Video terminals are legalized at Aqueduct and Yonkers racetracks and are already cash cows raking in millions of dollars. As an incentive to get New York City’s votes to approve legalized gaming, Cuomo is stressing that although the city will not house a casino hall they will still receive millions to go towards education and property tax relief.

Cuomo said an Independent Selection Committee would review bids from casino operators and decide where to place the initial three casinos. The New York State Legislature would have no role.

Meanwhile, State Senator John Bonacic who heads the powerful Racing and Gaming Committee wants to see the initial three casinos placed in the Catskills region. He is introducing legislation in the Senate. Earlier this week, Bonacic said he wanted them in existing state run racinos.

Empire Resorts, the operator of Monticello Raceway and our racino, has said they are building and new racino and racetrack and moving it to the Concord property no matter what.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther said she supports Cuomo’s plan which would most likely favor a casino built at the former Concord site because they already have a leg up on everyone else.

Developers at the former Grossinger’s and Nevele Hotels also want in on the casino action, but under Cuomo’s plan they would not be included in this first wave.

Cuomo said host counties would receive a share of revenues from casinos as well as surrounding counties in that region. In other words, if Sullivan County gets a casino Ulster, Orange, and Delaware will also share in the take. It is believed that this move might get people who do not live in counties with casinos to support a referendum.

Under Indian Gaming, Sullivan County would have received a $15 million impact fee per year per casino, besides revenues and taxes going to New York State and Sullivan County.

As the debate continues if when or where casinos would go, we need to remember that once a referendum is approved there will be a massive media onslaught from those groups who support and are against casinos.

What does all this do to economically depressed Sullivan County that can’t wait any longer for a decision to be reached on casinos? Well – Our frustration has turned into anger and disgust.

I received an email this week that just about sums it up. Here is what it said. “This casino scam is the biggest There Card Monte game in history!! It’s been going on so long that everybody forgets we are getting screwed. All that really changes are the developers and/or the location. But, the GAME is the same – Pick a site – Do a study – Spend millions of dollars, Grant tax abatements – And still nothing! When I was a teenager this all started and I am now over 60! When do you think someone, ANYONE, will wake up to this? It’s all a scam and Sullivan County is being played while people at the top are making A LOT OF MONEY along the way! I have had enough!”

Indeed, we have all had enough.

For over 30 years we have been used and abused with casino prospects. It was the magic bullet that was going to stimulate our economy and revitalize our tourism industry. Millions upon millions of dollars was wasted as we watched the industry explode in neighboring Pennsylvania and other states.

When the Concord, Grossinger’s, Raleigh, Brown’s Stevensville, Pines, Kutsher’s, and all our other famed hotels were open we were all told, “Casinos Mean Jobs.”

Governor George Pataki was giving us not three casinos, but five.

When I worked with the Seneca’s and Rotate Black lobbying their efforts to construct a casino resort complex in Sullivan County, we were so close, as was the Stockbridge Munsee’s and other Native American tribes, but yet so far.

Every major casino developer wants to get in on the latest gaming prospects. They are spending millions on lobbying and scouting properties believed to be approved for casinos. But, if Cuomo has his way none of them would be able to come to Sullivan County, because he wants us to get only one.

Because the casino market is so diluted, we need to convince Albany that casinos can only succeed if they are grouped and placed in renowned resort destinations such as the famed Catskill Mountains and that we can lure tourists with much more than just gaming.

It is so hard to believe that we have gone from being a renowned “Resort Capital” to one of the most economically depressed regions in New York. The state owes it to the celebrated “Borscht Belt” to once again make us a thriving tourist destination, and one casino will just not do it, we need more.

Keep up the fight Senator John Bonacic – You might be the only hope we have left to once again turn Sullivan County into a true tourist destination.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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