Ted Waddell| Democrat
DEVELOPER LOUIS CAPPELLI outlines his developments plans at the site of the old Concord Resort Hotel in a press conference at The Lodge in Rock Hill.
Cappelli fleshes out Concord's future
By Ted Waddell
ROCK HILL April 22, 2008 Louis Cappelli, a large-scale developer from Westchester, captivated an invitation-only crowd with his plans to turn the defunct Concord Resort and Hotel into a world-class hotel, convention center and racino/ racetrack.
Prior to Thursday’s demonstration at The Lodge, Cappelli and David P. Hanlon, president & CEO of Empire Resorts, Inc. of Henderson, NV, sat down for a private confab with Fred Stabbert III, publisher of the Sullivan County Democrat and The Towne Crier.
In making his pitch, Cappelli said, in essence, that he has a couple of financial plans Option A to the tune of $500 million, and his top pick, Option B, which would be a $1 billion investment.
In return for ponying up $1 billion, he wants NYS to agree to a new taxing system model for the racino, calling the racino at Monticello Raceway “broken… the guys have to keep coming back to the state for more monies from the pot because there is no way for the racinos to increase the revenue… every time the state increases the sharing formula, they’re simply taking it away from education.”
According to Hanlon, at present there’s “an effective tax rate of 68 percent,” but under their new plan, the state would tax video gaming machines at a flat 25-percent for education, the lottery administration and NYS horsemen and breeders.
Under his first plan (Option A), the state would have paid back 4 percent a year on a total investment of $500-$700 million for 30 years, in the wake of Cappelli meeting specified economic development targets.
Reflecting on previous plans for the Concord that fizzled, Cappelli said, “It’s a very difficult thing for me because I’m not used to starting and stopping, over-promising and not delivering.”
According to Cappelli, the time is right to, in poker terms, to “go all in,” even though the national economy seems headed south and the local economy has a 14.50 percent poverty level, an unemployment rate of 6 percent and a per capita income of $22,305, some of the lowest levels in NYS.
“Here’s an economic development plan, and it’s a great opportunity right now,” he said, adding he foresees the proposed casino as “the engine to make people drive up [Route] 17 to our place… we’ll capture the hotel business, the convention business.”
In November 2001, the state on New York passed legislation approving the development of up to three Class III off-reservation Indian casinos in the Catskill region.
In February 2007, after Empire Resorts, working in partnership with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, spent several years working on the tribe’s fee to trust application for the feds to approve Class III gaming, the governor of the state concurred in the April 2000 secretarial determination “that gaming in Sullivan County would be in the Tribe and its members best interest and not detrimental to the surrounding community.”
Although the U.S. Department of the Interior approved Class II gaming in the county seven years ago (2001), on January 4, 2008 the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe received a letter from the Interior Department denying the Tribe’s application to place 29.31 acres at Monticello Raceway into trust for “the purposes of building a Class III casino in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).”
On January 11, 2008 the Tribe filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department for “Unlawfully rejecting the Tribe’s application under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988,” but the St. Regis Mohawks tribe subsequently withdrew its suit.
According to Cappelli, he anticipates town board approval for his comprehensive zoning plan this Tuesday, and on Wednesday hopes for approval on the final site plan of the proposed racetrack.
If every thing goes as planned, Cappelli said starting Thursday morning, demolition crews will begin taking down the old Concord Hotel complex, except for one building.
He said the demolition phase of the project would last approximately three months and cost an estimated $6-7 million.
“We’re going to turn this thing around, and combine our efforts,” Cappelli said of the proposed joint venture of Concord Associates L.P. (which bought the Concord Resort and Hotel out of bankruptcy in 1999) and Empire Resorts, Inc.
“We either have to do something now, or we don’t,” he said. “Let’s take the bull by the horns.”