| Times Herald-Record
Resorts World Catskills casino is open for business following COVID-19 closure
Resorts World Catskills casino has reopened following New York State’s mandatory closure of casinos due to COVID-19.
Patrick Oehler, Poughkeepsie Journal
TOWN OF NEWBURGH – The casino operators who run Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County plan to open a new gambling hall with video lottery terminals in part of the Newburgh Mall. That move would position what could be a major player in the gaming industry at the nexus of two interstate highways.
Resorts World has been authorized by the state since 2019 to open an Orange County facility to deploy electronic slot machines that previously were licensed at Monticello Raceway in Sullivan. The company initially scouted potential sites in the Harriman area, near another Thruway interchange, but shifted its attention to an existing commercial space about about a 20-minute drive north of Harriman.
“Developing a video gaming machine facility in Orange County has, for many years, been part of Resorts World’s long-term vision for Hudson Valley and the Catskills,” Genting, the parent company of Resorts World, said in a statement to the Times Herald-Record on Friday. “It will create hundreds of good-paying unions jobs, generate significant revenue for New York’s public schools, and is an important step in ensuring the long-term sustainability of Resorts World Catskills.”
How many machines Resorts World would house at its proposed Newburgh site has not been determined. Monticello Raceway had hosted VLTs since 2004 and had 1,100 when that operation ended in 2019, after the opening of the casino six miles away in the Town of Thompson had made the raceway machines redundant.
Resorts World is scheduled to present its plans to the Newburgh Town Board at its workshop meeting on Feb. 22. Town Supervisor Gil Piaquadio said this week that the proposal would require the board to amend its zoning to allow gaming in that area, and also would need Planning Board approval after an environmental review.
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Resorts World plans to lease a 68,877-square-foot space that used to be a Bon-Ton department store and has been occupied since Aug. 1 by a Jennifer Furniture outlet. Bon-Ton vacated in 2018 after the company went bankrupt and closed all of its 260 U.S. stores.
More jobs to Orange County
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus said Friday that he supported Resorts World’s site choice for the jobs it would bring to the Newburgh area and benefit for the struggling mall it would occupy.
“I want it to be successful at that site, and I think that area could use a boost,” he said.
The Newburgh Mall is a 40-year-old, enclosed shopping center on Route 300, next to the interchange where the Thruway and I-84 meet and bordered on two sides by the interstates. It is modestly sized at 386,101 square feet – less than one-fifth the size of the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack – and has the last remaining Sears in the Hudson Valley as an anchor store.
State lawmakers authorized Resorts World to relocate Monticello Raceway VLTs to Orange County through a late addition to the state budget in June 2019. Though the bill didn’t specify a location, state Sen. James Skoufis had pushed for Resorts World to build its VLT parlor at the former Nepera chemical plant site in Harriman, partly to spur a cleanup of the site and replenish the lost property-tax revenue.
Skoufis said in a statement on Friday that the Nepera site proved more contaminated than previously known and likely would need almost a decade of remediation. He applauded the Newburgh Mall as an alternative that would trigger the revival of a dying mall, generate tax revenue and other local benefits, and create good-paying jobs.
“I negotiated the agreement to bring a VLT to Orange County because our community stands to significantly benefit from the economic activity, employment, and local revenue that’s associated with the project,” Skoufis said. “Additionally, it was of utmost importance to me that the proposal revitalize a community blight.”
Up- an downsides
A recent state-commissioned study found that a facility with 1,200 VLTs at the Nepera site or nearby could rake in more than $200 million in revenue by 2025, matching the much larger Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County. Those calculations assumed some spillover traffic from nearby Woodbury Common Premium Outlets and gamblers who otherwise would head west on Route 17 to Resorts World Catskills.
Opening the VLT hall in Newburgh instead could lower those projections because it would forgo those two advantages and places the facility father from the densely populated market of Bergen County, N.J., and New York City.
The Newburgh gambling hall is expected to employ up to 225 people and take up to a year to build once Resorts World has gotten approvals from Newburgh and the state Gaming Commission.
The Newburgh Mall has struggled for more than a decade, and was sold for $7.7 million four years ago. Town officials cut the mall’s tax assessment by almost 15 percent last year, and agreed last week in a proposed court settlement with the mall’s owners to cut that reduced tax value in half.
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Opening a gambling parlor would likely mean a sharp rebound in the mall’s taxable value and therefore more property-tax income for the Town of Newburgh, Newburgh School District and Orange County. The mall paid about $1 million in annual property taxes before the pending assessment cut.
Jennifer Furniture, once a much larger chain, has six stores left in New York and New Jersey, including its six-month-old location in Newburgh. Neither the company nor the Newburgh Mall has made any public announcement about the Newburgh store closing.
Skoufis said in his statement that Woodbury officials and the owners of the former Nepera site recently reached a settlement in a tax dispute that will prompt the owner to start cleaning the property with oversight by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.