Who will be deciding our casino future?
Story by Dan Hust
ALBANY December 6, 2013 Where will these new casinos go?
That’s the multi-million-dollar question right now, with an answer that a gaggle of gaming and community interests are literally banking on.
Sullivan County seems to be at the top of a short list in the Catskills, but ultimately, it will be up to the State Gaming Commission and its to-be-appointed New York State Gaming Facility Location Board.
No names have yet been announced for the Location Board, though Neversink resident and former county legislator and GOP chair Greg Goldstein is in the running (see sidebar).
The Commission itself only has four of the seven commissioners it ultimately will embody, nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo and approved by the NYS Senate:
• Chairman Barry Sample, retired deputy director of state operations under Cuomo
• John Crotty, founding member of NYC-based Workforce Housing Advisors and former member of the NYC Off-Track Betting Corporation Board of Directors
• John Poklemba, general counsel for American Transit Insurance Company and former NYS Director of Criminal Justice
• Todd Snyder, executive vice chairman of North American Global Financial Advisory and co-head of Rothschild’s debt and restructuring group, where he is also a senior managing director
These four and the three yet to join them will choose five people to sit on the Location Board, which will recommend to commissioners what casino projects should receive one of the four coveted gaming licenses, each good for 10 years.
NYS Senator John Bonacic, who represents Sullivan County, is a key figure in the process. He chairs the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.
“I do not make the appointments to the commission. I do oversee the confirmation process of each appointee,” Bonacic confirmed this week. “... The appointments, when made, will undergo a review as part of their confirmation process.”
“The Senator’s office has had discussions with numerous people about the Commission from all over the state,” added Committee Counsel Langdon Chapman. “However, he plays no role in nominating those who serve on the Commission. Rather, he plays a role in the confirmation process when a person is actually nominated.”
Once a majority of commissioners is in place, a request for gambling proposals must be issued within three months. Potential operators will have to pony up a $1 million application fee and deliver reams of information in the site selection competition.
There’s abundant speculation that the siting application and review process which includes public hearings on every proposed casino will begin in earnest this January or February, but that’s not certain yet.
“There is no specific timeline,” said Bonacic, “but I expect now that the referendum has passed, the process will move forward very quickly in the new year.”
Goldstein throws dice on board
Story by Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY December 6, 2013 Former county legislator, GOP chairman and Neversink town supervisor Greg Goldstein confirmed this week that he is a candidate for the New York State Gaming Facility Location Board.
“I know my name has been put forth,” Goldstein, currently the president of the Misner Insurance Agency, told the Democrat, adding that he’s submitted a resumé through NYS Senator John Bonacic’s office.
The Location Board will make recommendations to its parent body, the NYS Gaming Commission, on what casino applications to approve. A NYS Constitutional amendment approved by voters in November allows up to two in the Catskills.
Whether or not Goldstein is selected by the Gaming Commission which doesn’t have all of its own commissioners in place yet remains to be seen, likely not till the new year.
Goldstein has long been involved in researching and advocating for casinos in the Catskills, having served on the county’s Casino Gaming Committee more than a decade ago.
“I think the good outweighs the bad,” he explained. “I think this just helps with part of the [economic development] puzzle.”
Yet the idea of a local resident on the Location Board Goldstein or anyone else is actually cause for debate.
“There would be a conflict of interest if somebody from this area sat on it,” assessed Thompson Town Supervisor Tony Cellini.
That’s from a man who is as enthusiastic as anyone about casinos and in whose town at least one is likely to arise.
“I think we’re the #1 choice here,” he agreed. “Why spoil it?”
His concern is that people will suspect a lack of transparency, of fair play, in the highly competitive casino selection process.
“I can understand Tony’s feeling, but I would respectfully disagree,” Goldstein replied. “... I think we have to make sure we get what we want and need.”
However, Langdon Chapman, who is the NYS Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee’s attorney (the committee which confirms appointees to the Gaming Commission), doubts anyone from this area will be on the decision-making team.
“It’s probably less likely that even well-qualified people from Sullivan or Ulster counties would be named to the Commission (although we would like it if they were), given the argument that could be made by casino opponents or more likely, competitors,” Chapman told the Democrat.
“What I mean by that is if you have a pro-gaming Sullivan County resident (and obviously we aren’t looking for anti-gaming people to serve on the ‘State Gaming Commission’), there is an argument to be made that they could not fairly judge an application for a casino at, for example, the Concord or Grossinger’s, versus an application for a casino in Poughkeepsie which is in the same region,” he added.
“That is legally significant, because in awarding licenses, state commissioners must act reasonably and free of bias, or the license could be susceptible to a court challenge.”
As a result, said Chapman, Senator Bonacic is not actively advocating for particular nominees.
Goldstein, however, doesn’t take it personally. And he’s confident that, if selected, he can serve in an ethical and transparent manner whilst at the same time representing Sullivan County’s interests.
“I think after all these years, we should be represented,” he said.