Coalition, casinos yet to sign deals
Talks continue to protect arts venues from competition
Arts & Casinos
CAPITAL REGION Applications for a casino license are due by 4 p.m. Monday, but a coalition of more than a dozen entertainment venues in the state is still working to secure agreements from the operators.
The agreement would require operators to pay a percentage of their net gaming revenues to the coalition, along with a deal to purchase and distribute tickets, establish program sponsorships and limit the size of any entertainment venue on a casino site.
Philip Morris, chair of the Upstate Theater Coalition For A Fair Game and head of Proctors in Schenectady, said he is “very optimistic” those agreements will be signed by the application deadline.
“We’re working on them, and it’s moving in the right direction,” Morris said. “We will announce who has signed a Fair Game agreement after the applications are in.”
Local sites being pitched for a casino include Amsterdam, Cobleskill, East Greenbush, Rensselaer and Schenectady. None have signed an agreement yet with Fair Game.
The coalition is made up of 13 arts venues, including Proctors, the Palace Theatre, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Times Union Center and the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. As part of the coalition, the venues are looking to reach agreements with casino operators proposing projects in the Capital Region to ensure the gaming facilities don’t compete with their operations.
Saratoga Casino and Raceway and Churchill Downs of Kentucky, the groups proposing a casino project in East Greenbush, have reached their own agreements with Albany-area venues including the Palace Theatre, Times Union Center and Park Playhouse. Those agreements — separate from Fair Game — ensure any entertainment facility built on site is limited to 1,000 seats or less. The casino would also develop multi-year sponsorships and help to book performances for the venues.
James Featherstonhaugh, minority owner of Saratoga Casino and Raceway, said he expects to reach additional agreements with other area venues but does not plan to sign an agreement with Fair Game.
“We are reaching agreements with the individual venues that would be impacted by a casino,” he said. “We were approached by Fair Game. We looked at what they were asking for, and we don’t think it is compliant with the RFA [request for application].”
Rush Street Gaming, the operator proposing a casino at Schenectady’s former Alco site, does not plan to build an entertainment facility and has committed to working with local venues, including Proctors. David Buicko, chief operating officer of Rotterdam-based developer Galesi Group, said he spoke with a variety of casino operators and decided to partner with Rush because of their support for the arts and local business.
Rush officials have not yet reached an agreement with Fair Game. Buicko said he is optimistic it will happen, but it might not happen by Monday.
“Rush is working with Fair Game to come up with an agreement,” he said. “I am hoping an amicable agreement with Fair Game will be included in the application. If not, it will happen shortly after that.”
A spokesperson for Rochester-based Flaum Management, which is pursuing a casino at de Laet’s Landing in Rensselaer, said they have not signed an agreement with Fair Game but “talks are ongoing.” Hard Rock International and Global Gaming Solutions, the commercial arm of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, are proposing the Rensselaer casino project. It is unclear if plans include an entertainment venue.
Officials at Howe Caverns in Cobleskill have also not signed an agreement but are in discussions with the coalition and looking to “come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial to all parties,” according to an executive involved with the project. The proposal for Howe Caverns includes a casino with two hotels, an indoor water park and a new dinosaur canyon. The operator for the project has not been announced but will be disclosed after applications are submitted.
In Amsterdam, Clairvest Group Inc. is teaming with Great Canadian Gaming Corp. for a $250 million casino project near Thruway Exit 27. Clairvest CEO Jeff Parr said he has not signed an agreement with Fair Game but plans to negotiate a deal today.
Clairvest and Great Canadian Gaming failed to receive concessions from the state Gaming Commission, which included a request for a 60-day extension to submit its application. But on Thursday, Parr said he is confident they will have the application done on time.
The casino applications will be coming in by the truckload Monday to the state Gaming Commission’s offices behind Proctors in Schenectady. Gaming Commission spokesman Lee Park said he expects to release a list of who submitted applications late Monday or early Tuesday. Summaries of each project would be posted within a week, followed by the full applications.
Before the commission’s Facility Location Board chooses sites for a casino, applicants will present their proposed projects to the board and the public in August. Also, public hearings will be held in each region slated for a casino — the Capital Region, Catskills and Southern Tier — before casino licenses are awarded in the fall.