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Casino or racino:
it adds up to jobs

By Leni Santoro
THOMPSON — January 15, 2008 — It’s been ten years since Louis Cappelli bought the Concord Hotel property in the hopes of bringing a world class resort venue to the county.
Now that the Mohawk tribe’s application for a casino at Monticello Raceway has been put on a more or less permanent hold by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, Cappelli still hasn’t given up.
Yesterday, appearing before the Town of Thompson Town Board with David Hanlon, CEO of Empire Resorts, Cappelli explained how he intends to proceed from this point forward. Cappelli originally intended to tie in his development of the Concord property with the Mohawk’s casino as a way to attract visitors to his resort.
“I’m going to start off this discussion by talking about credibility, because it’s been weighing on my mind,” began Cappelli. “And it’s been weighing on my mind for ten years now; maybe longer… We have invested hard cash, 80 million dollars of hard money, not sweat equity, not interest accrual but actual hard cash money. We have another $25 million additional debt which we took over on the property. So there is a $105 million dollars that we have invested here [so far]. We are as invested as they come,” he assured the board.
The new plans for the Concord site include a $700 million project including: a resort/convention hotel and casino (minus table gambling), rental properties, a spa, and now if the board agrees, video lottery terminals (VLT) and a racetrack.
Why a casino? And why include the racetrack?
“We have to have an engine to drive the traffic to Sullivan County,” explained Cappelli.
That engine is now being fueled by Empire Resorts. With Empire on board Cappelli now hopes to attract business to his resort by supplying consumers with a one stop place to hold a convention, stay in a world class hotel, or perhaps invest in a rental home while enjoying all the amenities of an international golf course and a racetrack.
Cappelli pointed out in his argument that where once Monticello Raceway attracted thousands to the stands that number has now dwindled to hundreds. His new racetrack would accommodate in luxury those hundreds. Another compelling argument was that where once the racino at the raceway was drawing large crowds that number has diminished recently as racino goers are lured away by more resort type slots such as Atlantic City and the Poconos.
How much will all of this cost? Somewhere in the area of $700 million dollars, of which Cappelli already has $350 million. He already has approval for a casino on the property, what he needs now is the approval to move the raceway. He has the experience and he has the added input and endorsement from Empire Resorts.
Still to come is input from the state level, though he seems encouraged by projected figures that will raise the state education’s department take of the money from the video machines from $30 million to $75 million based on projections that when the machines and the raceway are moved consumers will flock to the new venue and the new location will be better able to compete with other areas like the Poconos.
If all goes well the construction will begin in July and take two years from that point, depending on the weather. Racing would continue without interruption at Monticello Raceway until the track at the Concord is ready. The stables would remain at Monticello raceway and would be moved later on.
David Hanlon of Empire Resorts also was on hand at the meeting and assured the Town Board that despite the effects of Secretary Kempthorne’s ruling earlier this year, he still has and plans to go forward with development plans for the Monticello Raceway site.
See next Tuesday’s Democrat and Wednesday’s Towne Crier for follow-up articles.Also in Tuesday's Democrat: St. Regis Mohawks break ties with Empire Resorts, the tribe's erstwhile casino partner.

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