Story by Dan Hust
ALBANY June 25, 2013 The decades-long quest for casinos in the Catskills seems closer than ever to consummation.
But just because on Friday the State Legislature passed legislation authorizing four upstate casinos doesn’t mean Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini or anyone else in Sullivan County, for that matter believes it’s a done deal.
“I’m still guarded about the future,” confirmed Cellini, who’s been on this roller-coaster since the ’70s.
The plan which would allow one to three casinos in the Catskills still has to gain public approval in a statewide referendum this November 5, Election Day.
And that may be a significant hurdle even in a state economically suffering as much as New York.
“I think the polls are pretty close now,” Cellini said, citing a report of 48 percent of state voters against vs. 44 percent in favor of legalizing gambling.
Plus, gaming interests in neighboring Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut are likely preparing a public relations and political push against the measure.
“I’m certain they don’t want to see it here,” Cellini surmised.
That said, he just spoke with EPT/Empire, which seeks to turn much of the old Concord property near Monticello into a destination resort, including a casino.
“They’re ready to commence land-clearing,” he related as early as next week.
Other long-dormant casino interests in the county are also stirring, though Cellini didn’t identify who.
“We do basically have three shovel-ready sites here in the Town of Thompson,” he pointed out.
In the meantime, he’s contemplating putting out signs urging the public to get behind this latest casino call.
“We have to unite as a community, as a region, for this,” Cellini insisted. “... I think this is do-or-die this time.”