By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
It will be several more months before the state Gaming Commission awards licenses to four casinos in upstate New York, but the parties vying for those licenses are not wasting any time promoting their proposed sites.
Following a brief conference in Albany Wednesday, some of the applicants explained why their location would bring the greatest economic boost to the state -- one of the criteria for being awarded a license.
Howe Caves Development Corp. is looking at a 330-acre site in what has been called a planned development district in Schoharie County.
Chris Tague, a member of the development team for Howe Cave Development Corp., said his county was devastated by tropical storms Lee and Irene, and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
"Right here is a perfect economic engine to get Schoharie County back on the map, open for business, and get our people working," Tague said. "You have a site where 17 million people have visited since 1929. We already have buses and tourists that come in every day. The possibilities are endless."
The property would expand upon Howe Caverns, long a popular upstate tourist draw. A portion of the site is already being developed with a hotel and indoor water park. If awarded the license, the plan would be to add the casino on the remaining portion of the property.
In addition, a $9 million infrastructure improvement project is already under way in Schoharie County, and should be completed by the summer, Tague said, adding that Howe Cave invested $2 million into the improvements.
"Our site is shovel-ready. You can go there and start building tomorrow," he said. "We are 100 percent committed at the end of the day to have the casino sited on our property. It's the best site and we feel that it makes the most sense."
Saratoga Harness Racing Inc. has two bids in for a casino, one in East Greenbush, across the Hudson River from Albany, and one in Newburgh. The applicant is already known for the Saratoga Harness and Raceway Racino in Saratoga Springs.
Senior Vice President of Marketing Rita Cox said the plan is to have the property in East Greenbush work together with the Saratoga Springs racino "to drive the best possible return to the state."
"In the terms of gaming dollars that are leaving the state, we want to make sure that they stay in New York where they belong, as well as attract gaming dollars from outside the state to bring into the capital region," Cox said. "This was part of the intent in the very beginning to drive tourism dollars."
The property in Newburgh is located in Orange County in the Catskills region.
Cox said that Saratoga Harness and Raceway has a 10-year track record of expanding its business. They partnered with Delaware North on the Gideon Putnam resort in the Saratoga Spa State Park, bought partial ownership of Ellis Park Racetrack in Kentucky, and last year purchased a casino in Colorado.
"Our track record speaks to the fact we are looking to increase our business," Cox said. "We are confident that we are going to be able to deliver the winning bid in both regions."
In the Southern Tier, Tradition Resort and Casino is being proposed near Binghamton.
Owner Bill Walsh currently operates Traditions of Glen Resort and Conference Center in the Binghamton suburb of Johnson City.
Walsh said his location for the casino is far superior than many of the surrounding locations.
"We currently have a hotel, golf course, spa, food and beverage and more than 450 acres of property," he said. "Many of the amenities you need, we have on site."