Howe Caverns casino details emerge; Iacocca part of deal
COBLESKILL A proposed casino at Howe Caverns will be named the Howe Caverns Resort and Casino and be operated by Full House Resorts Inc., based in Las Vegas, Nevada, if it is selected by the state.
Officials at Howe Caverns in Cobleskill submitted their application for a casino license with the state Gaming Commission on Monday. They are partnering with Full House Resorts, which currently operates casinos in Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada and New Mexico.
A big name involved in the Cobleskill casino project is Lee Iacocca, who is on the board of directors of Full House. He is best known for engineering the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto cars. He also served as president and CEO of Chrysler.
The proposed project for Howe Caverns includes a full-scale casino with two 250-room hotels. Plans also include a more-than-50,000-square-foot water park, spas and several restaurants.
Michigan casino developer Michael Malik would own the casino. A price tag for the project was not disclosed. More details will be released during a news conference at Howe Caverns in the coming weeks.
“The first time I saw this site, I knew it was a winner,” Malik said in a statement. “I’ve developed many resort destinations before and this site has all the ingredients needed to be a successful destination resort.”
Malik and his business partner, Marian Ilitch, spearheaded the development of three casinos in Michigan. Malik worked to open MotorCity Casino Hotel, which is the only locally owned and operated casino in Detroit.
Ilitch and her husband, Mike, founded Little Ceasers Pizza, the third largest pizza chain in the country. The Ilitches also own the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers.
A spokesperson for Malik confirmed on Monday that the Howe Caverns casino project does not include an entertainment facility. The developers signed an agreement with a coalition of entertainment venues, called the Upstate Theater Coalition For a Fair Game, to support the arts in the region. Details of the agreement were not provided.
Emil Galasso, owner of Howe Caverns, also has plans to develop a new dinosaur canyon that will feature life-size animatronic dinosaurs with a dinosaur theater and other attractions.
Howe Caverns is already a popular tourist attraction with 160,000 visitors each year. It is the second most-visited natural attraction in the state behind Niagara Falls.
“All along, I have held that we have the best site with the most potential to develop a successful resort and casino in the entire region. Today, our chances got even better,” Galasso said.