Bidding War: The Capital Region

Developers in this region of the state agree that the proposed downstate casinos in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley will have a negligible effect on their projected revenues. If selected, the lucky casino(s) in this area would have to contend with tribal gaming operations in the area, a planned casino in Western Massachusetts and casinos in Connecticut.


  

Hard Rock Resort & Casino
Rensselaer County

The Basics 

Location: DeLaet’s Landing along the Hudson River waterfront, directly across from downtown Albany
Franchisee: Och-Ziff Real Estate
Franchisor: Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment
Consultant: Global Gaming Consulting

Operator Projections 

Investment: $280 million
Financing: Fully funded by developers; no third-party financing
Annual Gaming Revenue:
$260 million
Employment:
Construction: 967 direct jobs, 393 indirect jobs
Permanent: 900+ direct jobs, 700+ indirect jobs
Annual Gaming Taxes and Fees:
$100 million, $10 million of which will be local

 

The Proposal:

The plug for the Hard Rock Rensselaer is its internationally recognized brand name and full financing from the developers for the shovel-ready project—no reliance on the banks means the project will go forward no matter the economic climate. Because of market saturation in the northeast, the developers emphasize the need for a true destination resort, not just a place for locals to gamble—and they argue that the Hard Rock brand would attract even international visitors. They project that the casino will take 12 months to build, and note that their recently completed “Rocksino” in Cleveland, Ohio, was built ahead of schedule in just 10 months. Hard Rock Rensselaer would feature 1,500 slot machines and 50 table games, along with 100 luxury hotel rooms. A 250-seat Hard Rock Cafe, upscale steakhouse and more casual dining options. Hard Rock claims a loyalty program with over 480,000 members within a 200-mile radius of the proposed gaming site, and the casino would be located within minutes of Albany-Rensselaer train station.


  

Howe Caverns Resort & Casino
Schoharie County

The Basics

Location: The 330-acre Howe Caverns property off Route 7 and I-88 outside the Town of Cobleskill and a 45-minute drive west of Albany
Developer: Howe Caverns Resort and Casino, LLC
Owner: Michael J. Malik Sr.
Operator: Full House Resorts, Inc.

Operator Projections

Investment: $330–450 million
Financing: N/A
Projected Annual Gaming Revenue: $131 million
Employment:
Construction: 3,000 jobs
Permanent: 1,700 jobs
Annual Gaming Taxes and Fees: $50–60 million

 

The Proposal:

This casino, resort and indoor-outdoor waterpark would be built on 110 acres of the 330-acre iconic Howe Caverns property, which, according to the applicant, already draws 200,000 visitors a year. Michael Malik and Full House Resorts, who both have prior experience developing and managing regional casinos, envision the resort’s layout as “together but separate.” This means a site that encourages families with children to visit so the younger members will enjoy the waterpark, arcade and surrounding natural wonders like the caves, while the adults can play at the casino’s 1,200 to 1,500 slots and 35 to 50 table games. The casino and the waterpark will occupy the same property, but with separate entrances—each of which will have its own 250-room hotel, restaurants and amenities. The developers also argue that their location will have the least negative effect on Saratoga Racino’s current business—$15 million per year—half or less of the projected impact that any other proposal would have on the raceway.

Howe Caverns has already spent some $4.5 million in developing its land over the years, which means that the basic infrastructure is mostly in place, and it has the green light from the state to build. The developer does not go into details of project financing, but says in its application to the state: “The fact that a competitive bidding process is unfolding with the location of four licenses still to be determined makes the capital funding environment difficult to pin down.”


  

Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor
Schenectady County

The Basics

Location: City of Schenectady at Mohawk Harbor
Applicant: Capital Region Gaming, LLC, an affiliate of Rush Street Gaming, LLC
Operator: Same as applicant
Developer: The Galesi Group

Operator Projections

Investment: $300 million (casino only)
Financing: Rush Street is putting up “substantial” equity behind it; six “highly confident” letters from major banks (no commitments)
Annual Gaming Revenue:
$223 million
Employment:
Construction: 739 jobs
Permanent: 1,070 jobs
Annual Gaming Taxes and Fees:
$82 million

 

The Proposal:

The Rivers Casino & Resort would be part of a larger mixed-use development that is already going up along the Schenectady waterfront. The developers imagine a “waterfront renaissance” in the city, which has been economically depressed following the close of factories and the movement of manufacturing jobs out of state and overseas. They claim the city has the lowest per capita income of any of the Capital Region’s host communities. The current waterfront development is now being built to house retail outlets, residential buildings and tech space. The casino would feature 1,150 slots, 66 table games and a 150-room hotel, along with fine dining, an entertainment lounge and other amenities. Rush Street Gaming has built $2.5 billion in gaming projects over the last 10 years, including the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, to which they compare their Schenectady proposal. The Galesi Group has been active in the Capital Region for 45 years. The project has the support of the city and county legislatures and local business. If it goes forward, Schenectady County Community College will offer courses in dealing and casino management.


  

Capital View Casino & Resort
Rensselaer County

The Basics

Location: East Greenbush, a 15-minute drive from Albany across the Hudson River, near the intersections of Route 4 and 20, and I-90
Applicants: Churchill Downs Inc. and the Saratoga Casino and Raceway
Operators: Joint venture between the applicants

Operator Projections

Investment: $320 million
Financing: 25 percent equity, 75 percent third-party financing.
Annual Gaming Revenue:
$217 million ($306 million when combined with Saratoga Raceway)
Employment:
Construction: up to 1,000 jobs
Permanent: 1,000 jobs
Annual Gaming Taxes and Fees:
$5.7 million for the Town of East Greenbush and Rensselaer County; $24 million for the Capital Region (Statewide: N/A)

 

The Proposal:

Saratoga Casino and Raceway and Churchill Downs Inc. trumpet the latter’s long-established brand (est. 1875) and successful record of opening profitable casinos nationally. Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Ky., is home to the world-renowned Kentucky Derby, and the company also maintains four other racetracks and six casinos across 10 states. Capital View would feature 1,506 slot machines and 56 tables games, along with a 100-room three-star hotel and a convention center. Entertainment space would be limited to 1,000 seats in deference to Albany’s other theatres and venues— such as the Palace Theatre, Park Playhouse and Times Union Center—with which the casino has entered into sponsorship agreements. Both companies claim conservative financial profiles and strong union ties. Their labor agreements are fully executed and ready to go, should they be chosen. The average salary offered to their employees will be $50,000 per year, with an emphasis on hiring minorities and women, and contracting with minority and women-owned businesses.

Capital View is also one of the few casino proposals facing organized opposition. A group calling itself Save East Greenbush says it has 3,000 petition signatures opposing the project, and has filed a lawsuit challenging a June 12 vote in which the town board adopted a resolution in support of the casino. The developers say they have engaged with area residents and have even changed their building plans based on community input.

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