May 01, 2014 — Prospective casino operators got a chance to ask the Cuomo Administration questions about details of the process for choosing licensees for four upstate casinos. But they won't get answers for several days.
The structure of the event was a bit awkward. Gambling conglomerates, and other developers, who have all paid $1 million each for the privilege of being considered for a casino site, attended a mandatory session held by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Gaming Commission.
They were permitted to ask questions about details of the complex siting process. Empire Resort's Nick Casiello asked whether the documents required for geological surveys of the proposed sites could be sent electronically instead.
"It's part of the transparency process," William said.
The lucrative casino licenses have attracted 22 bidders. Most attended accompanied by their attorneys and lobbyists. Williams says the developers were instructed by the gaming commission not to make any comments that would promote their project or disparage the other prospective developers. And he says he's "pleased" that everyone complied.
Rita Cox, of Saratoga Casino and Raceway, initially wanted to build a new casino in Saratoga. Her group has now proposed a site in East Greenbush, near Albany, as well as in the City of Newburgh in the Hudson Valley. She agrees that it was useful to hear the questions from the competition.
"I think it's good to know that all the other applicants are looking at the same things we were," Cox said. "We're all looking forward to additional clarity."
One common concern expressed was how a required state environmental review, which can involve a lengthy public comment period, will fit in with the process.
Most of the potential licensees were more reticent, including Rochester developer David Flaum. He's seeking permission to build a casino on Exit 23 of the Thruway at the southern tip of Albany, as well as a gambling center in Orange County near the popular Woodbury Commons shopping outlets, and one in Sullivan County, in the Catskills.
Flaum has also sought a deal with the Seneca Indian Nation to build a casino near Rochester, in the town of Henrietta, a project that is not part of the current selection process. Flaum, like many of the participants, did not have any questions to ask. "I'm just here to listen," Flaum said. "I'm in listening mode."
Ultimately, the Gaming Commission will choose four casinos later this year in the Capital Region, the Hudson Valley Catskills Region, and the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes area.