Casinos In the Catskills? Just You Wait, As New York State Ballot Referendum Approaches

 @natrudy
on November 04 2013 11:55 AM
Casino Macau 2011
Cards on a blackjack table in Macau Reuters

Real estate developers and property owners in New York state’s formerly famous Catskills region will compete fiercely for two casino licenses, if New York voters approve a referendum upping the number of casinos in the state, reports the Wall Street Journal.

“It will be a high-energy next four months if the referendum passes,” said Louis Cappelli, a hopeful developer, to the Journal.

There are at least five different likely sites. Many favored sites formerly hosted famous resorts, popular when Catskills made its name as a holiday destination in the mid-1900s.

The rivalry is nothing new, as a full-service casino has long been a goal for developers, landlords and Native American tribes in the region. Key players are likely to spend hundreds of millions on developing casinos, hotels and affiliated facilities, like convention centers and ski slopes.

Cappelli even told the Journal he could start building within 24 hours after receiving a license.

State governor Andrew Cuomo has long backed the casino expansion measure, which has been controversial in the Albany state legislature.

If the ballot measure passes on Tuesday, there could be up to seven casinos in the state. But no region could receive more than two permits.

A majority of New York city voters back casino expansion, a recent New York Times poll found. But they also found the prospect of a casino in the five boroughs less appealing.

The state ballot measure says that authorizing the casinos will grow jobs, increase aid to schools and lower local property taxes.

Critics of the measure argue that casinos make crime rates rise, and that gambling hits the poorest the hardest. Job and economic boosts may only be temporary, and do more damage in the long term, according to critics.

In a global context, the Chinese gambling haven of Macau has long surpassed Las Vegas in gambling revenues and casino growth. Casino legalization in Japan is expected in this decade, after successful ventures in Singapore and budding industries in Cambodia and the Philippines.

The Catskills region was considered a hub for stand-up comedy decades ago, and also hosted the legendary Woodstock music festival in August 1969.

New Yorkers will elect a new mayor on Tuesday. 

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