Howe Caverns anted up, as did “E23.”
The operators of the Saratoga Casino and Raceway also put in the $1 million fee due to be electronically transferred to the state Gaming Commission by midnight Wednesday in order to submit an application for a state gaming license. The commission intends to release the names of the companies or entities putting up the fee at some point today.
It was unclear late Wednesday whether owners of sites such as the former American Locomotive property in the city of Schenectady, de Laet’s Landing in the city of Rensselaer or a swath of land near Thruway Exit 27 in Amsterdam had paid the million, but even if they didn’t, their sites might still someday host a casino.
Prospective casino operators can submit the fee and then choose a site later during the application process — applicants won’t even need to disclose which of the three designated regions they’re seeking a license for. And that means a casino could still open just about anywhere in the eight-county area permitted for the Capital Region’s gaming license.
The fee will go toward the comprehensive background checks for prospective applicants, conducted by state police investigators and expected to start in mid-May. It’s also the price to grab a seat at the commission’s applicant conference in Albany on Wednesday — an event expected to draw high rollers throughout the gaming industry.
Among them will be Howe Caverns Development Corp., a limited liability corporation hoping to simultaneously woo a gaming operator and impress the commission’s gaming facility location board with its proposal for a 330-acre casino project in Schoharie County. Spokesman Chris Tague said several operators have expressed interest in the site and he is confident it will be one of those submitting a proposal by the June 30 deadline.
“If I were to bet on it, I would say there’s a very good possibility [Howe Caverns] is going to be there when it comes down to it at the end of the day,” he said.
The group known as E23 is equally optimistic about its site near state Thruway Exit 23. The partnership between Rochester developer David Flaum and Capital District Off-Track Betting is close to landing an operator and could be making an announcement within days, said spokesman Patrick McCarthy.
“We are in the final stage of negotiations with a couple of operators,” he said prior to the group’s appearance before Albany’s Common Council on Wednesday. “It will be announced very shortly.”
Of course, both Howe Caverns and E23 still lack a critical first step toward submitting an application: A local resolution of support. This resolution was defined as one issued by the host community anytime after Nov. 5 — the date legalized table gambling was approved by voters statewide.
Of the sites identified in the Capital Region, only the ones in Rensselaer, East Greenbush and Amsterdam have the requisite resolution of local support. E23 is in the process of seeking the resolution, but it hasn’t yet gone to a vote.
On Wednesday, the Gaming Commission released a 90-page document from the location board answering 311 questions posed by prospective operators. Among the answers was a clarification indicating a general resolution from a host community in support of casinos would suffice, rather than a specific measure indicating support for the actual application.
Also addressed in the document was whether an OTB organization could be part of casino application — as is the case with the proposal offered by E23. The board simply deferred any ruling on the matter to applicable state laws and the OTB’s own guidelines.
“The Board encourages any interested Off Track Betting Corporation to conduct a legal review of the applicable provisions of the N.Y. Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law and its own bylaws or operating agreement to determine the scope of business it may lawfully undertake,” the answer states.
E23’s McCarthy said there’s nothing in state law or OTB bylaws that would prevent it from having a stake in a casino. He said other Off Track Betting organizations have a stake in gaming operations, including Western OTB with the Batavia Downs racetrack and the Long Island OTBs hosting video lottery terminals.
“We’re not going to grant Capital OTB any authority they don’t already have,” he said.