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Deadline focuses field of NY casino contenders

April 23, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2014 at 8:30 pm

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The field of contenders vying to build casinos in upstate New York came into focus Wednesday, the deadline for interested parties to submit a $1 million application fee.

The pitches come from some of the world's largest casino operators and local business owners, each hoping to win a license to open one of up to four casinos authorized in the Catskills, the Albany-Saratoga region and the Southern Tier. Their ideas include a Las Vegas-style facility 50 miles from New York City, modern casinos built on the sites of Borscht Belt resorts, and a casino near a cave.

Several developers and casino operators involved in the projects told The Associated Press that they submitted the hefty fee because they're confident their proposal will win out in the fall, when a state gambling panel will make the decisions.

The Catskills region attracted several contenders. Caesars Entertainment, Trading Cove New York, Foxwoods, Empire Resorts and a group proposing a casino at the site of the old Nevele resort have all submitted application fees.

Caesars Entertainment has plans for a $750 million development including a casino, hotel and entertainment space in Woodbury, just 50 miles north of New York City and near the sprawling Woodbury Commons shopping center.

"The site is ideally suited for the development of a resort casino given its proximity to transportation and other attractions," Caesars CEO Gary Loveman said in a statement.

Rivals in the region said putting a casino so close to New York City would be unlikely to give the upstate economy much of a boost.

"Woodbury is a world away from Ellenville," said Michael Treanor, who is proposing to build a casino on the site of the former Nevele resort in Ellenville. Treanor said his proposal would reinvigorate an economically troubled area. "We're right on the border between upstate and downstate. It's the perfect location."

Empire Resorts is pitching a complex including a 391-room hotel, conference center and 70,000-square-feet of gambling floor. Empire spokesman Charles Degliomini said the project has been underway for three years and is poised to move quickly if approved.

"This isn't going to be a conversation about whose neon sign is bigger," he said. "This is going to be about creating the attractions that is going to drive tourism from downstate to upstate."

Saratoga Casino and Raceway is looking at two locations: Newburgh, some 60 miles north of New York City, and East Greenbush, across the Hudson River from Albany. Spokeswoman Rita Cox said her company submitted a $1 million application fee that will cover either possibility. The casino and raceway — which operates slot machines and electronic table games — dropped plans for a full-scale casino in Saratoga after running into local opposition.

The owners of Howe Caverns in Schoharie County are pitching a proposal to build a casino on 330 acres. Emil Galasso, president of the development corporation behind the project, notes that Schoharie County has one of the state's highest unemployment rates. Plus, they have a cave.

"Today, we are sorting out who is in and who is out," Galasso said Wednesday in a statement. "...Howe Caverns is also the only site that offers a built-in attraction with pre-approved plans for future development such as a hotel and water park."

In the Southern Tier, Traditions at the Glen resort and conference center has put forward plans for a $150 million casino. Other proposals come from Tioga Downs Casino and racetrack in Nichols and the Wilmorite real estate development firm, which is pitching a bid for a $350 million casino and resort in Tyre.

"We are full speed ahead and we are definitely in it to win it," said company chairman Thomas Wilmot Sr.

Genting Group, which operates the Resorts World Casino New York City at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, announced Wednesday that it has paid an application fee — but has not yet settled on a location. The Malaysia-based company said in a statement that it is considering "multiple potential sites" in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley areas.

The complete list of those submitting fees is expected to be released Thursday. Full applications are due to the state by June 30. Groups who drop out of contention before that are eligible for a partial refund of their application fee.

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