Table limit: New York State releases minimum investment figures for casinos

Photo by Flickr user Mark Menzies; published under Creative Commons license.

Casino developers hoping to land one of four prized licenses from New York State will have to prove that they're investing enough in the project. But although the state's minimum investment figures are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, they're not likely to prove an obstacle to deep-pocketed casino developers, many of whom have already unveiled plans to spend much more than the state's required minimum figures.

The amount of money developers will be required to spend depends on the region where the casino will be built. The New York State Gaming Commission's new casino siting board has released separate minimum investment figures for each of the three regions where casinos might be sited: the Capital Region, the Eastern Southern Tier, and the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley. 

Developers looking to build in Orange or Dutchess County will have the highest bar to clear, with a minimum investment of $350 million. Elsewhere in the Catskills/mid-Hudson Valley region, the bar will be lower. For a casino in Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Sullivan or Ulster County, the minimum investment is $130 million. If a casino is built in Orange or Dutchess County, the minimum figure for a casino elsewhere in the region will drop to $100 million. 

In the Capital Region, which includes Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schenectady and Washington counties, the minimum investment is $135 million. 

The lowest investment figures are for the Eastern Southern Tier. For Wayne and Seneca counties, the minimum figure is $135 million; for Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Tompkins and Tioga counties, the figure is $85 million. If a casino is built in Wayne or Seneca County, the minimum figure for the rest of the region will drop to $70 million. 

In determining the numbers, the board sought to balance the goals of fostering competition between casino developers and maximizing economic development in New York State and in the three regions, siting board members said in a press release.

In April, 22 developers applied to New York State for casino licenses, for which each paid a $1 million application fee. Four licenses will be awarded, with two likely to go to Catskills/Hudson Valley projects. 

The prospect of an Orange County casino, just south of the economically-depressed Borscht Belt area that has long been the hotbed of casino plans and speculation, is worrisome to Catskills casino supporters, who fear that a casino closer to New York City would siphon off tourist dollars from its more northerly neighbors. In a New York Times article in February, would-be Concord developer Louis Cappelli said that an Orange County casino would be a "devastating blow to everyone who's been trying to revive Sullivan County for the past 40 years."

Not to be outdone, Orange County developers say that the area they want to develop has economic problems, too. In a recent press release, the developers behind the proposed $670 million Hudson Valley Casino and Resort in Newburgh touted the city's nearly-30-percent poverty rate, calling Newburgh the worst-off community in New York State:

There is no community struggling more in New York State than the City of Newburgh....The economic challenges facing Newburgh are unrivaled not only in the Hudson Valley/Catskill region, but among the various regions competing for one of four casinos. There is no single community more in need of an economic jolt than Newburgh.