By Dan Hust
KIAMESHA LAKE A November 10 letter strongly indicates Concord redeveloper Louis Cappelli isn’t about to get the necessary state license to open a harness track at the hotel site in Kiamesha Lake, but Cappelli says he’s not given up.
“The letter seems self-explanatory but doesn't tell the whole story, nor does it confirm the ‘end game’,” Cappelli wrote in an e-mail to area politicians on Tuesday.
The letter in question is the second of two written this month to Cappelli and his Concord Raceway Corporation by NYS Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini.
The first letter, penned on November 2, demanded the corporation provide a slew of missing details in its application to the board for a single racing license, which is being sought at competing sites upstate as well.
The second letter from Sabini, dated November 10, said that “the submissions by Concord are insufficient and certainly inadequate to demonstrate any meaningful current expectation that the project will be developed.”
Sabini noted that the “target ready-to-race date was the summer of 2010” and that financing is not yet in place, despite promises from the corporation.
Those promises had initially elicited a letter from the Racing and Wagering Board in May that the Concord raceway concept was on a successful track for the needed license.
“You are hereby informed that you may no longer rely and may no longer cite the board’s letter on the board’s previous indications that the board would be in a position to and take favorable action on the Concord’s 2011 application,” Sabini concluded.
“Now that we, Concord, located in Sullivan County, are locked in a race with other parts of the state for the coveted eighth racing license, where it was simply ours, we must prevail and we will,” Cappelli wrote in his e-mail this week to County Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis, Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini, NYS Senator John Bonacic and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, among others. “The people of Sullivan County can’t afford to wait another two years for economic development, and when we get our financing, they won’t have to any longer.”
But that financing, according to Cappelli, has been delayed by competing interests: namely, EPT and Empire Resorts, who are working together to build a not-yet-fully-defined resort facility on 1,500 acres surrounding the actual Concord Hotel site, which Cappelli owns.
Though Cappelli cited an agreement his group has with EPT/Empire that prohibits his neighbors from building a competing racetrack or casino, Empire Resorts already operates Monticello Casino and Gaming, a state-licensed racino just three miles west in Monticello.
That fact was cited as a concern by the Racing and Wagering Board, but Cappelli argued that EPT/Empire is unfairly complicating the Concord’s redevelopment.
“Concord had until November 1, 2011 to close its anticipated bond financing,” Cappelli wrote. “We had scheduled to do so, yet EPT and Empire sought to obstruct that financing by numerous methods. They were temporarily successful in delaying our financing but not stopping our financing to date.
“In fact, we have sued EPT for $800 million for their tortious interference actions, and as they now state in their 10Q, they intend to ‘vigorously defend’ this lawsuit,” he continued. “I hope they can defend against it, as they have acted in bad faith and in contradiction to our settlement agreement.
“But Concord does not intend to let the self-serving and defensive actions of EPT and Empire get in the way of creating 1,000 jobs in your county,” Cappelli concluded. “We will get our financing, and in fact as of today [November 22] have all of the required equity raised for the financing.”
Empire declined to comment, and EPT officials did not provide comment at press time, but both companies have already expressed opposition to Concord’s racetrack plans in previous correspondence with the state.