$600M gambling resort planned in NY's Catskills

March 8, 2012 - 5:25 PM

THOMPSON, N.Y. (AP) — Plans to develop a $600 million resort with gambling on the site of the grandest old Borscht Belt hotel are being revived.

The proposal to be unveiled Thursday night at a town meeting will include a large hotel, a golf course, a harness track and video lottery terminals on the former site of the massive Concord Hotel, famed from the days when the Catskills were a prime destination for summer tourists, many of them Jewish families up from New York City.

The Monticello Raceway, with its video lottery terminals, would move from its current location several miles away to become part of the resort, according to the proposal to be outlined by track operator Empire Resorts and land owner Entertainment Properties Trust.

Proposals to expand gambling in this lake-laden area northwest of New York City have foundered for years. Westchester County developer Louis Cappelli promoted gambling resort plans for the Concord site several years ago and even won from state lawmakers a deal allowing the mega-project to keep a more generous percentage of video lottery terminal revenues.

Cappelli's plan stalled during the recession. Now, two companies he had worked with before intend to seek local and state approvals for their own plan to invest at least $600 million, which is required by state law for the more generous revenue deal.

The announcement comes as New York appears closer to expanding gambling beyond video devices at "racinos" to allow casinos, which are now permitted only on tribal land. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports a constitutional amendment to change that.

Greg Silvers, chief operating officer of Kansas City, Mo.-based Entertainment Properties, said the trust is committed to the project regardless of whether New York expands gambling, though casino expansion in New York would be "a positive."

"With a lot of these projects, if you followed its tortured history, it's been about people making promises and failing to keep those," Silvers said. "So our stated goal is to under-promise and over-deliver."

The two companies also face a $1.5 billion federal lawsuit filed this week by Cappelli, who claims Entertainment Properties and Empire Resorts conspired against his resort plan. Silvers said Thursday that he couldn't comment on the lawsuit because he hadn't seen it.

The developers were withholding details about the proposal until the public meeting.