Once, New York State’s Catskills area, spearheaded by the Concord and Grossinger’s resorts near Monticello and Liberty in Sullivan County, was one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country. Its proximity to New York City, within about 100 miles, helped bring in millions of visitors, who wanted both indoor and outdoor activities. Known as the Borscht Belt for its special appeal to Jews, it started an entire generation of comedians, from Jack Benny to Lenny Bruce, who brought Yiddish words such as bagel, chutzpah, and kibitz into our language. Gambling, though technically illegal, was always a part. The area started losing its tourists in the 1950s and 1960s, and by the 1980s the resorts were almost a thing of the past.
But now there will be a reason for many to return. At long last – over a year after it was authorized, and 40 years since locals began asking for one – a legal casino will be built in the Catskills.
The New York State Gaming Facility Location Board announced its approval decisions on Wednesday. There will be three full-scale gambling facilities. One will be in Tyre, near the Finger Lakes. Another will be in Schenectady, next to the state capital of Albany. The third, the Montreign Resort Casino, will be in Kiamesha Lake, near Monticello, on the former property of the Concord.
There has been some controversy about whether locals wanted the casino to be approved, but not a lot. When the state’s voters weighed in on the referendum in 2013, Sullivan County led the state with 76% in favor, and the Monticello and Liberty areas were over 80%. The measure passed, and since then the board had been requesting and assessing proposals.
So what will the casino and resort complex mean for the county?
First, it will bring in jobs. The Times Herald-Record, in a pre-decision wrap-up of the nine proposals from which the three above were chosen, claimed the Montreign and its associated Adelaar would create 2,400 new positions, almost all of which will need to be worked locally. In a county with a civilian labor force of under 32,000, that is a lot.
Second, it will multiply recreational activities. The Montreign and Adelaar, neither of which would have been built without the casino authorization, will offer entertainment, skiing, fishing, golf, various water sports, snow tubing, zip lines, live entertainment, spa treatments, poker, other gambling, a buffet, a variety of other dining options, and more, many not available now.
Third, it will help other businesses in numerous ways. The complex will offer conference and meeting facilities, along with a 390-room hotel. For new commercial opportunities, Montreign and Adelaar need advertising, beverages, cleaning supplies, commercial food service equipment, dry cleaning and laundry, financial services, fixtures, food, furniture, information technology, merchandise for retail sale, motorcoach operations, office equipment, office supplies, paper products for food service, and printing services, among others. If you are with a company that provides any of these, Empire Resorts, the owners, would like to hear from you.
Fourth, it will bring in tax revenue. The actual amount is unknown, but with tax rates of 37% to 45% for slot machines and 10% for table games, it will be large.
Fifth, it will skyrocket tourism for Sullivan County in general. Some facilities and attractions will do better than others, but it is absurd to think that the greatly increased number of visitors the county will see, even if it only gets a tiny fraction of the 52 million who visit the New York City area each year and the 23 million who live there, will not generally help many other businesses, and individuals, tremendously.
The Montreign and Adelaar resort complex is expected to open in early 2017, possibly sooner. They are already taking resumes for employment and marketing information from possible partners and suppliers. If you want to be involved, go to the website www.montreign.com.
The Catskills are coming back.