Harriman Lawyers Prepared to Block Orange County Casino Licensing

Descendants of one of America’s top railroad barons are suing to keep a casino out of Orange County, New York. The descendants of E.H. Harriman donated a large stretch of money to create the second-biggest state park in New York. Because they placed certain legal rights in those bequests, they are suing to enforce limits on the deeds for Caesars Entertainment’s land deal in Orange County.

The siting panel chosen by the New York Gaming Control Board may make an announcement on casino licenses as soon as this month. At present, 16 separate gaming companies and land developers have paid the $1 million application fee to apply for a license. The siting panel has the purview to offer up to 4 casinos licenses across three regions of New York state: the Hudson River Valley, the Catskills, and area around Albany.

Plan Worth $430 Million

The licensing plan was devised by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who hopes to add $430 million to state and local treasuries each year. When it was first approved by voters, the casino initiative was meant to boost the economy of struggling parts of the state.

Orange County is the most lucrative region to be getting a casino. Gaming giants like Caesars Entertainment and Genting Limited Group are vying or the Orange County license. Any casino placed there would be in position to draw the gamblers from among 8.4 million New Yorkers, along with the millions of tourists who pour through the area each year. Gambling junkets could deliver players to a casino 50 miles from Manhattan.

Harriman Famiy Prepared to Save Nature Preserves

The Harriman family is determined to derail those plans, though. They have contracts which might help them block completion of a Caesars Entertainment casino. The Harrimans want to protect their nature preserve, as well as the integrity of the Orange County area.

Harriman attorney, James Sweeney, spoke on behalf of the family from Goshen, New York. Sweeney said, “The current Harriman family is intent on perpetuating their legacy of protecting and enhancing the environment in that section of the state. The family will march off to court to enforce the deed restrictions, and the siting board knows that.”

Caesars or Genting Could Be Sued

The problem from the perspective of proponents is the Harrimans are targeting the two largest proposals: the $800 million project by Caesars and the $1.5 billion plan by Genting. In these cases, the biggest proposal tends to win, because it provides more jobs up-front in the construction phase and more jobs and revenues in the long run, because the operation is larger. The Harriman lawsuit could change the equation.

Governor Cuomo’s Response

Andrew Cuomo supported the casino licensing plan when it was on the ballot as a referendum in 2013. He points out that the proposal called for up to 4 licenses, but the siting panel might not choose a one. But the siting panel has to consider a potential costly lawsuit, which could keep a development in court for years.

Cuomo recently told the Chicago Tribune, “We have some controversy about certain sites and we don’t even know that those sites will be selected. They may have nothing to complain about because there may be no casino.”

Harriman Family Legacy

The Harrimans have the deep pockets to continue making trouble for years to come. E.H. Harriman was the founder of the Union Pacific railroad, which went on to become the largest railroad line in the United States. E.H.’s son, Averell Harriman, owned the Union Pacific, but he was also a long time U.S. diplomat. Harriman was an go-between for FDR to Winston Churchill during World War II, and he went on to become the Ambassador to the Soviet Union at the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War.

Averell Harriman Anecdote

The Harrimans are known for their steely determination. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States had been allies in crushing Nazi Germany. The United States wanted Russian help in ending the war with Japan. Soviet leader Josef Stalin came to Ambassador Harriman one day, claiming he would not come into the war on the US side, unless the Soviets were given an equal occupation zone in Japan, much like what happened in East Germany and North Korea after the war.

Harriman knew American leaders were desperate for a Soviet entrance into the war, to end the war quickly. He also advocated a firm, but fair, approach to the Soviet Union–believing they would only respect strength. Harriman knew, if he referred the request back to the U.S. State Department, they were likely to cave and give Stalin the occupation zone he demanded.

Tough Negotiations

Bucking US State Department protocol, Averell Harriman stood firm, and flatly refused to give in to Stalin’s demands. The next day, the Soviets relented to the U.S., which went on to have the sole role in occupying post-war Japan. In that way, Averell Harriman saved the Japanese from a North Japan versus South Japan scenario, like what reins in the Korean Peninsula to this day.

So the descendents of E.H. Harriman can show rare determination, when they believe they are right. The Caesars and Genting plans could see major legal issues, if they are chosen.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on BestOnlineCasinos.com, USPokerSites.com, and LegalUSPokerSites.com

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