Bidding starts high for NY's new casinos

By Emma Rumney
Those bidding on four new casinos to be built in New York are going to have to be both patient and generous to the tune of up to $70m if they are going to be successful.

State regulators the NY Gaming Facility Location Board have outlined the conditions for applying for a licence and potentially developing and operating the first of seven Las Vegas-style casinos authorised last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a 57% approval vote from citizens in a November referendum.

Board member Paul Francis, in the regulator's announcement of its approval of the request for applications yesterday, said this "marks the beginning" of a "long anticipated" bidding and development process that will bring "economic growth, good jobs and enhancement" to the region.

There will be a $1m non-refundable charge to make an application, followed by hefty licence fees to be paid to the state. They're set on a sliding scale, dependent on which of three approved regions the development would be in – Catskills, Capital or Southern Tier – and whether it's the only one operating there.

Applicants looking to build a casino in Dutchess or Orange Counties, like real estate and construction developer David Flaum, will be spending the most – shelling out $70m on a licence fee.

With one casino in the Dutchess/Orange county regions, the price for a second casino elsewhere in Catskills would be $35m. Without it would be $50m. This area, closest to New York City and brimming with potential foreign and domestic punters, is looking to be the site of fierce competition.

The Albany and the Wayne or Seneca County areas are also set at $50m and are both already receiving interest from developers. Several proposals, including another from Flaum, have been suggested in the Albany area and Rochester mall magnate Thomas Wilmot is looking to build in either Wayne or Seneca counties.

If he were to be successful, another casino in the Southern Tier would have a $20m licence fee.

Elsewhere in the Southern Tier - Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga or Tompkin counties - carrys a cost of $35m.

Hard Rock, Empire Resorts, Penn National, the Mashantucket Pequot tribe and Stockbridge-Munsee Indians are among 20 applicants who have said they want to enter the bid, and there are at least three casino proposals in each region already.

If the cost didn't wheedle out some of the competition, perhaps the long-winded application process and its stringent requirements will.

Speaking to the Washington Times, Michael Treanor of Nevele Investors joked: “It's going to be a busy 90 days", referring to the company's plans to bid on an old Catskills hotel as a site for their proposed casino and the extensive information they need to provide to do so.

For the first time, how applicants must demonstrate "to the board’s satisfaction that local support has been generated" has been outlined. A tricky feat especially in areas where locals don't welcome the proposed developments.

Among other things, the applicant must present a resolution passed by the local legislative body after 5 November 2013 supporting the application.

Applicants will also have to provide market analysis, resort plans detailing everything to parking infrastructure, information on individuals tied to the bidder, the number and kinds of gaming device, the financial health of bidders and their partners, legal history and projections of tax revenue, potential job creation, financial impact on the state's finances and more.

Applications have to be completed by 30 June, although applicants are required to participate in a public bidders’ conference on 30 April, where the minimum required investment for proposed projects will also be set.

The regulator said on Monday that applications will be evaluated primarily on how much economic and business development the project would demonstrate (70% of decision), followed by the local impact it would have and its employment plan (20% and 10% respectively).

Gambling Facility Location Board member William Thompson said: "Gaming facility applicants now have a clear, concise and practical guide as they begin to construct bids. Economic growth, good jobs and enhancement to the region are paramount to this effort."

The selection of successful applicants will be made next autumn.

Emma Rumney
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