New York is in the process of awarding three full-casino licenses for the downstate region, and New York City is among the favourites to land at least two if not three. However, this has raised some concerns in Catskills communities, as the new casinos would likely affect Resorts World Catskills operations, as the region is reliant on revenue from the gaming property.
Resorts World Catskills opened back in 2018 and currently provides around 1,400 union jobs. However, the gaming establishment produced just half of the tax revenue that it was initially projected to generate. Still, the site is an attraction to tourists and has still managed to provide benefits to the local economy. But the new casinos could be bad news for its operations.
NYC Casinos Could Steal Customer Base
Despite failing to meet projections the Catskills casino is still doing quite well for itself. But it relies on buses full of seniors from Flushing and Queens who come to the site to gamble who come daily for four-hour round trips. The property has an entire wing or a third of its gaming floor devoted to Asian gamblers. But, the three new casinos could steal its customers.
Sullivan County Treasurer Nancy Buck noted the new casinos in NYC will be a major concern for the county, as it could have devastating effects. Meanwhile, Bill Rieber, supervisor of Thompson, the 16,700-person town where the casino is based, said the region will feel a little impact, and that the town should look into new ways of marketing the casinos for customers to come.
It should be mentioned that the prospect of a casino in the Big Apple stealing customers from the Catskills has been a cause of concern since the inception of the commercial casino legislation. Ms. Buck said it is a real alarm for the region, as the community needs the jobs and that the area needs revitalization after being left behind in the past.
This summer, the New York State Comptroller issued a report that studies the impact of all four upstate casinos. It found that they failed to meet initial tax revenue targets in 2019. But in 2022, only Tioga Downs met its 2019 projection. Meanwhile, the other three, including the Catskills casino, managed to generate 50 to 60% of their initial projections.
But despite the failure to meet targets, local governments still benefitted from the casinos. In the three smaller host towns, Nichols, Tyre, and Thompson, gambling proceeds contributed 30% to 60% of total revenue, allowing them to cut property taxes. But in the largest host community, Schenectady, and four host counties, gaming tax accounted for 1-3% of their total proceeds.
iGaming also Poses a Threat
In addition to the new land-based casinos impacting the casino, the Catskills region also has to worry about the introduction of online gambling as a legal option in the state. New York Sen. Joe Addabbo is a major proponent of iGaming and is working on having it in the Empire State. This could also impact the casino's player base and hurt its economic impact.
Source: Saunders, Arabella “NYC casinos could hurt Catskills communities” The Daily Star, September 11, 2023