Casino applicants bring questions to Albany meeting


ALBANY — Applicants in the running for one of four casino gaming licenses in upstate New York got a feel for their competition Wednesday at a mandatory conference at the Empire State Plaza.

More than 100 people were in attendance, eager to acquire information regarding potential plans and information that may set themselves ahead of the competition, but the details were few and far between, as bidders were only provided the opportunity to ask questions.  

“The agenda is relatively simple,” state Gaming Commission acting Executive Director Robert WIlliams said. “Today’s conference serves two functional purposes: to recieve questions to clarify answers to the first round of questions; and to provide an additional forum for bidders to ask questions.”

Each of the 22 applicants who submitted a $1 million fee last week was required to attend the conference and were known in the room by the place card at each individual table. 

Clairvest Group LLC, the Toronto-based investment group interested in building a casino in Montgomery County, was seated at a table near the front of the room under the name of Florida Acquisition Corp. The table consisted of Clairvest Co-CEO and Executive Director Jeffrey Parr, investment adviser Peter Marcil, and counsel. 

Mick Mullins of Mullins Realty was also in attendance but sat behind the roped off area for members of the public. Mullins has been working with Clairvest on a pair of properties, consisting of 512-acres, in the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam.

The group from Saratoga Harness Racing Inc. was among the larger groups, taking up three tables with approximately10 representatives. The party has two potential bids: one for a site in East Greenbush and another in Newburgh. 

Many of the questions revolved around the commission’s regulations for the casinos and clarification of what the commission is looking for regarding the site plans. Some groups had no questions and gave up their chance to speak as the commission moved on to the next party.

The conference was over within 45 minutes. Some of those who had traveled a long distance expressed frustration that no additional information was released.

“I was surprised by how short it was,” Bill Walsh, owner of Traditions Resort and Casino, said. “I guess that is why there was no agenda posted.”

In one conversation after the conference, someone asked, “What was the point of this?”

Chris Tagues, a member of the development team for Howe Caves Development LLC, said he thought there would be more information released.

Others, who have a long history in the gaming industry, were not surprised. 

“This was expected,” Clairvest’s Parr said. “We have been involved in many of these over the years and it’s not an unusual situation.”

Clairvest had asked about the timing of when the regulations would be released. 

“Each and every jurisdiction has unique matters with regulations so we wanted to understand those in advance of submitting our application on June 30,” Parr said. 

Saratoga Harness Racing Senior Vice President of Marketing Rita Cox said she was pleased with the questions that were asked. 

“We were looking for clarity on the question of being fully operational within two years,” Cox said. “We want to understand what the expectations are.” 

Answers to Wednesday’s questions will be posted on the commissions website Friday.

The only new information that was released was the timeframe after applications are submitted June 30. 

From July 1 until Labor Day, members of the facility location board will meet with consultants, advisers and staff to break down components of each application, Williams said. 

On Sept. 8, oral presentations will conducted in Albany, after which a community meeting will be scheduled in each of the regions.