Union Leaders Says Orange County Casino Is Better Than Catskills for New York
AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento and Hotel Trades Council President Peter Ward say that local a casino in Orange County is the best option for the people of New York. The two union leaders released a statement on Tuesday saying the Orange County casinos “will create the most jobs while generating the most revenue from New York’s schools.”
Cilento and Ward sent an open letter to New York state gaming officials, saying that the Orange County proposals are much better suited than the Catskills casino plans. The men said more union jobs would ensue from building casinos so close to New York City.
Defending the State’s Gaming Industry
The men added that New York’s gambling industry is new and therefore should be established on the firmest foundation possible, in order to “means to defend our state’s gaming industry in its critical early stages”. If the state does not build near to Manhattan in the near-future, the state of New Jersey will build in North Jersey and leave New York behind in the race to build a customer base.
The heads of the AFL-CIO and the Hotel Trades Council took a direct shot at the Catskills region, which is one of three regions in New York state which might receive a casino. New York voters approved 4 casino licenses, which might be offered to 3 different regions of the state. Under the existing conditions, the state can license up to 2 casinos per region. If Ward and Cilento are understood correctly, then they would want the maximum number of casinos in Orange County (2), while having none in the Catskills.
Isolated and Unable to Compete
If the state built casinos in the Catskills, the union leaders said the operations “would be isolated and unable to compete.” They even cited the sad case of Atlantic City, which has seen four casinos close and a fifth ready to close on November 13. Atlantic City was a fine destination for gambling as long as it was the only such resort city on the east coast, but when tribal casinos sprung up in Connecticut and the Las Vegas Sands built a casino near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, its relative isolation from the major population centers became a liability.
That’s why the letter from Cilento and Ward deriding the Catskills was particularly scathing when it said, “In a sense, non-Orange projects will create the same economic isolation that Atlantic City is now experiencing.”
Catskills Leaders Criticize Unions
Leaders from Catskills communities have blasted the union leaders for taking sides. William Rieber, the supervisor of the Town of Thompson in Sullivan County, said, “That’s a real kick in the teeth.” He said the unions were letting self-interest of their organizations trump the greater good of the wider New York state economy. “It’s the greed factor taking over. I don’t like it and I don’t think it’s fair.”
People in the Catskills already believe they have been dealt a bad hand. When a casino license bill was being shopped to the voters of the state, the Catskills were used as an example of one of the economically-deflated regions of the state that needed an influx of jobs and investment. Orange County was hardly, if ever, mentioned in those discussions. Once the licensing process was underway, though, much of the talk centered around the potentially more lucrative region only 50 miles from New York City.
In recent times, money has trumped sentimentality when it came time to make the hard decisions. In the Massachusetts casino licensing process, the finalists were the $1.6 billion Wynn Resorts casino in Everett or the $1.1 billion Mohegan Sun casino in Revere. The Mohegan Sun plan involved a partnership with Suffolk Downs, the venerable Depression-era racetrack which had survived a number of shutdown scares over the years. The licensing officials who made the final decision claimed they gave deep consideration to the likelihood Suffolk Downs would shut down if it did not win the license, but they still chose the more lucrative Wynn proposal.
In the end, officials are going to have to weigh all considerations and choose the proposal which does the most good for the state. At the end of the day, if the Orange County casino idea creates the most jobs and brings the most investment capital into the state, that is likely to be the choice made by state-level officials.
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