Partisans sought to convince the five member New York State Casino Gaming Commission that one should be located in their town or county; a handful brought up continuing objections with the very idea of gambling. Many, within their comments, spoke out against other locations getting casinos — in particular Orange County, as the free for all brawl for legal gambling came to the commission for two days of public comment this past week — in Albany on Monday and at Poughkeepsie’s Grandview Hotel on Tuesday, September 23.
At various times, the rooms where the hearings were held filled up with folks wearing color-coded t-shirts, including blue ones for Ellenville’s The Nevele, although it was later uncovered under questioning from the commission that quite a few of those donning such partisan costumes, or speaking, had been paid or ordered to do so by their existing casino employers. Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, along with his counterpart in Sullivan County, noted that the intent of the gaming legislation was to help the Catskills.
Each and every proposal was presented in terms of its host community’s needs, as if all the represented towns — including Tuxedo Park — were vying to be seen as the neediest cases in the state. Members of the committee asked SUNY Ulster president Donald Katt what kind of job training the Nevele had arranged with his institution and were told that the college was planning to train “primarily the dealers and pit bosses” while BOCES facilities throughout the region would focus on “culinary skills and hospitality.”
Sullivan County’s reps pitched the idea of them getting two casinos, on adjacent properties outside of Monticello, while representatives of the region’s various Hasidic communities said they felt threatened by all proposals in Orange and Sullivan counties, skipping over mention of The Nevele. Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus noted how the proposals in his county wouldn’t need tax breaks; meanwhile, a union sent out over 15,000 mailers in the county protesting a proposal for a casino near Stewart Airport in the Town of Newburgh.
The Gaming Commission’s siting board has been charged with selecting at least one, and possibly two, of the nine proposed projects for the Hudson Valley/Catskills region. Ultimately there can be up to seven casino licenses statewide, though in the first round there are thought to be four on the table. Word has been that a decision would be made next month…unless “complications” push such deadline until after the coming November election. According to the commission, 70 percent of the ranking of a project involves its economic development impact, 20 percent on how the locale will be affected and 10 percent on workforce issues.
And according to those at the hearings, there was little or no interaction between those shilling for their respective casinos or positions.