New York Casino Applicants Expected To Dwindle

04.28.14 | FL News Team

 A generous refund policy and the potential for partnerships means the number of applicants seeking New York casino licenses will likely be whittled down in the months to come.
The state has received 22 application fees of $1 million each from developers and casino operators hoping to obtain one of four casino licenses to be awarded this year, the state Gaming Facility Location Board announced Thursday.
But there are a number of variables that will likely bring the total number of applicants down significantly before the licenses are handed out.
The $1 million fee, which is reserved for investigating the applicants and their proposals, is fully refundable until the state board announces the minimum total investment required for a license, which is expected to come in early May.
Even after that, any portion of the fee that hasn't been spent by the state if an applicant withdraws before the licenses are awarded will be returned.
"I think (the fee) is a door opener, a placeholder for some people," said John Sabini, the former chairman of the state Racing and Wagering Board. "Obviously, there are some real contenders in here and some who are more interested in horse trading or jockeying."
Of the 22 application fees, 18 are from developers or casino operators who have laid out their intentions for one or more casinos or have at least signaled which region of the state they intend to pursue. The four licenses being awarded this year are reserved for the Southern Tier, the Albany area and a Catskills-centric region that stretches south to Orange County.
Two other groups who submitted a fee -- Och-Ziff Real Estate and Rolling Hills Entertainment LLP -- have declined to reveal their intentions. The state has declined comment on the list of applicants, but is hosting a mandatory applicant conference on Wednesday near the Capitol.
The uncertainty surrounding some of the applicants and the fact that some developers are still looking to partner with casino operators leaves open the potential for deal-making, which could further cut down the total number seeking a license, according to Sabini.
Rochester-area commercial developer Wilmorite is one of three companies looking to build a casino in the Southern Tier region. James Wilmot, the company's chief operating officer, said the developer has yet to partner with an operator, but has been negotiating with several.
"We have financial commitments, but none from operators at this point," Wilmot said. "We already have commitments from banks for all of the debt, so we feel very confident we are capable of doing this and we are exploring our options, but we have not committed with anybody at this point."
Another Rochester-area developer, David Flaum, came to an agreement this week with casino giant Caesars Entertainment for a proposed facility near Woodbury Commons in Orange County, 50 miles north of New York City.
But Flaum is also pursuing a $350 million casino in the city of Albany, and Flaum Management wasn't specifically attached to any of those who submitted a fee.
A spokesman for Flaum confirmed a casino operator had submitted a fee for the Albany project, but declined to say which one, citing a non-disclosure agreement.
The next step for those pursuing a license is the mandatory applicant conference on Wednesday. Each group that submitted a fee is required to send a representative.From there, a formal proposal is due June 30. The Gaming Facility Location Board has signaled it intends to announce its decisions in the fall.